Nov 26, 2010
Unfortunately, children sometimes complete their celebrating in the hospital or an emergency room, needless victims of accidents caused by the very things designed to delight them -- toys, Christmas trees, decorations and plants. As daily routines are disrupted and adults involve themselves in merrymaking, parents sometimes forget how much trouble their little ones can get into. Since more children seem to get in harm’s way during the holidays than any other time of the year, parents need to be especially diligent for their child’s safety.
House fires take a terrible and unnecessary toll every holiday season. The candles that light the Hanukaha menorah or the electric lights that give the Christmas tree its glow pose dangerous threats. Fires can be prevented by keeping all matches and lighters out of your child’s reach. Candles should be removed from flammable materials, such as paper, plastic, and plants. A dry Christmas tree is a potential fire hazard, so always test your tree for freshness (Bounce the trunk sharply on the ground- if the needles fall off, the tree is too dry). Maintain a tree’s hydration by providing one to two quarts of water daily, and be sure to keep the tree away from fireplaces and other sources of heat. Electrical fires are easily prevented by discarding decorative lights that are broken, cracked or have frayed wires. Use only three sets of lights per extension cord and plug lights with childproof plugs behind the tree. Lights should always be turned off when you are away or upon retiring for the evening (use a timer!).
Decorating with plants can make a house more colorful, but be aware that their ingestion by a small child could cause a serious problem. For example, twenty to thirty holly berries can be fatal for a toddler. While mistletoe berries are less toxic, ingestion by a youngster can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pains. A severe overdose can lead to convulsions, loss of blood pressure and serious heart problems. Keep both types of berries out of the house, and call poison control immediately should you discover an ingestion. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettia leaves are less toxic than holly and mistletoe; but ingestion does cause a skin rash and stomach upset.
Tragically, a few years ago a Pinellas County infant choked on pine needles she picked up from the floor around the tree. Keep needles swept up or use an artificial tree as long as there are small children around. Anchor your tree securely to prevent toppling and trim branches at a toddler’s eye level since the needles and branches can injure an eye. Preservatives put in the basins of some Christmas trees serve to keep them green, but inquisitive toddlers may find these chemicals more appetizing then dinner. Beware!
Children are naturally attracted to colorful and glittering decorations. Keep out of reach any breakable decorations, especially those keepsakes of great sentimental value that have been handed down from generation to generation. Avoid edible decorations such as candy since toddlers have trouble distinguishing between decorations that can be eaten and those that can’t. Every winter small children are treated after they have swallowed such diverse objects as pine needles, tinsel, angel hair, styrofoam and artificial snow. When glass ornaments break, sharp pieces are formed that can be inhaled or swallowed, easily cutting your child. It is wise to keep these breakables out of their reach.
Even when potentially dangerous decorations are kept out of their reach, other holiday hazards are threats to children. For example, when wrapping gifts, be sure to dispose of the numerous pins in clothes, sharp plastic tags, and plastic covering. After wrapping, put away scissors, knives, and ribbons.
When choosing toys for your child, use caution, judgement and common sense. Matching the proper gift to the child by ability and age is important for both safety and enjoyment. Don’t ignore age guidance given by manufacturers. Seemingly safe toys can cause tragedy. For example, even something as playful or innocent looking as stuffed animal may have eyes which can come loose and swallowed, or interior wires which can cut or stab if exposed.