The holidays are a wonderful time of the year filled with family, friends, food, celebrations and, unfortunately, hazards. If you have a small child in your home, the holidays require extra vigilance to protect your family. Being proactive by learning about common holiday hazards and how to avoid them can help you and your little one enjoy a safe and festive holiday season.
Make sure the pretty packages under the tree are safe for your child. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Check toys for loose parts or things that might break off easily.
- Make sure toys are age appropriate and read labels for age recommendations and potential choking information.
- Keep toys that could be a choking hazard away from small children, including balloons, marbles, coins, small balls and toys with small parts.
Holiday Choking Hazards
The holidays bring many new and interesting items to the home. Small children explore their world by putting things in their mouths. A good rule of thumb is that if an item is small enough for your child to put in their mouth, then it’s a potential choking hazard. You can also check by passing an item through a toilet paper roll; if it fits through the tube, then it is a choking hazard. Keep potential hazards out of the reach of small children, including the following common holiday choking hazards:
- Tree ornaments – Many tree ornaments are small or easily breakable. Consider leaving such ornaments off the tree, or place them high on the tree where small children can’t reach.
- Tree decorations – Other tree decorations, like tinsel, icicles and small lights, are also potential choking hazards.
- Holiday foods – Some of the most popular holiday treats are choking hazards for young children. These include peanuts, popcorn, hard candies, snack foods, jelly beans, lollipops, grapes, raw vegetables, dried fruits, cheese cubes, seeds and nuts.
Some holiday decorations aren’t choking hazards, but can cause painful cuts and irritation if played with or swallowed. Needles from the tree, angel hair and ornament hangers should be kept away from small children.
Visiting Homes that Aren’t Childproof
When visiting friends and family, remember that they might not be used to having small children in their homes. Keep a close eye on your child and watch for potential hazards like medications, breakable items, uncovered electrical outlets and other things left in your child’s reach. Remember that your home may be less child-friendly during the holidays if visitors leave purses, alcoholic beverages or other hazards within your child’s reach.
People often spend extra time in the kitchen during the holidays, preparing family favorites and party treats. Make your kitchen safer by designating a three-foot area around the stove as a kid-free zone while you’re cooking. Turn pot handles away from the front of the stove, use the back burners as much as possible and keep the oven door closed to reduce the risk of burns and scalding. Turn the stove off if you have to leave the kitchen for even a short period of time and keep all flammable items away from the stove.
Musical holiday cards, remote controls, toys, flameless candles, cameras and other gadgets may contain button batteries. These small batteries can lodge in the esophagus if swallowed. Severe burns can result if saliva triggers an electric current causing a chemical reaction. If your child swallows a button battery, call 911 and go to the emergency room immediately.
Holly, mistletoe, Jerusalem cherry plants and other common holiday favorites brighten the home with holiday spirit. However, these plants are potentially poisonous to children and pets, so keep them out of reach or out of your home. If you notice symptoms of plant poisoning, including nausea, rash, vomiting and diarrhea, then call your doctor or the National Poison Center right away. SLMA has a full service emergency room. Poinsettias should also be kept away from children because they can cause burning in the mouth and gastric irritation if eaten.
Christmas trees are a festive part of many holiday homes, but they pose real dangers, particularly to young children. Keep your tree well-watered if you have a fresh tree and choose a fire-resistant tree if you want an artificial one. Place it away from traffic and heat sources. Use a sturdy stand to reduce the danger of it falling over or getting knocked over by children or pets. Turn off the tree lights before going to bed or leaving the house and don’t use real candles on the tree to minimize fire danger.
Keep the holidays safe and fun for everyone by taking steps to minimize holiday hazards. Then you can focus on enjoying this special time of year with your loved ones.