From holiday parties to holiday plants: keeping your kids safe this winter season

- This time of year is filled with family gatherings, special traditions and delicious treats. For most kids, the winter holiday season may be "the most wonderful time of the year." But, for emergency room doctors - the winter holidays are also the busiest. 

The Kohl's Injury Prevention Program (KIPP) at the Children's Hospital of Michigan offers the following tips to protect little ones from some common holiday dangers, so you and your family can enjoy a season that's happy and healthy. 

Holiday Decorating

  • Artificial Trees that are "flame resistant" are the BEST choice.
  • Live Trees need to be watered regularly, needles can dry out and pose a potential fire hazard. Keep live trees secured in a sturdy stand so they don't tip over, away from all heat sources such as electrical outlets, radiators, and portable space heaters. 
  • Holiday Lights - Inspect light strings and throw away any with frayed or cracked wires or broken sockets. Don't run more that three strings of lights end-to-end. Don't overload electrical outlets. Unplug indoor and outdoor lights every night before you go to bed.
  • Candles - Never leave the room with single or menorah candles burning. Extinguish all real candles every night before you go to bed. Eliminate worry-use flameless candles.
  • Ornaments - Keep breakable ornaments and small ornaments which can be a choking hazard off the tree until children are older. 

Fire and Scald Burn Safety
Holiday cooking is the leading cause of home fires during the holidays.

  • Check smoke detectors before you start holiday decorating and cooking. 
  • Plan and practice a fire escape plan.
  • Have a kitchen fire extinguisher that's rated for all types of fires.
  • Remember: If your clothes catch on fire: "Stop, Drop and Roll."
  • Remember: If your house is on fire "Get Out and Stay Out!"
  • Create a 36" NO zone for children around any heating source (oven, space heater, furnace, fireplace, etc) and keep kids away.
  • Use the back burners of the stove and turn pot handles away from the front. Keep hot foods away from the edge of counters.
  • Beware of tablecloths and table runners, toddlers can pull hot liquids on themselves.  

Holiday Plants
Household plants are among the most frequent objects ingested by children. Contrary to earlier beliefs, some of the common holiday plants such as poinsettia, holly (berries) and mistletoe (berries) contain toxic substances and if eaten can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain; however, one to two berries or leaves eaten is not fatal.  Any plant in a child's mouth should be considered a foreign object and may obstruct or get into the airway.  Exercise caution and keep all plants out of reach of children and pets. 

The Children's Hospital of Michigan Poison Control Center is available to take your calls 24/7, 365 days a year: 1800-222-1222.

Holiday Parties
Clean up immediately after a holiday party. A busy toddler could choke on left over food. Since kids imitate adults, holiday parties where alcohol is served can put children at risk for alcohol poisoning. Take care to remove all empty and partially empty cups as soon as possible. Children become "drunk" much more quickly than adults, so even small amounts of alcohol can be dangerous.

Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced any time fuel, such as oil, gas, or wood, is burned. This odorless, colorless, tasteless, deadly gas is often called the "silent killer" because it is virtually undetectable without the use of a CO alarm.  However, an estimated 70% of U.S. homes are not protected by a working CO alarm.  Carbon monoxide poisoning can result from faulty furnaces, charcoal or kerosene heaters, stoves (coal, wood, gas), propane grills, running cars in attached garages and tobacco smoke.  Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu, including headache, nausea, vomiting, weakness, fatigue and confusion. Extremely high levels of carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal within minutes. 

Reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Install a CO alarm on each level of the home-ideally on any level with fuel burning appliances and outside of sleeping areas. Additional CO alarms are recommended 5-20 feet from sources of CO such as a furnace, water heater or fireplace.
  • Have your chimney professionally inspected every year.
  • Open the damper for proper ventilation when using your fireplace.
  • Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Never use your oven, stovetop or clothes dryer to heat your home.
  • Never use portable generators or barbecue grills inside your home or garage.

Younger children can get into trouble if they visit a home during the holidays where young children do not live or visit regularly because that home will not be childproofed.  Be especially watchful of little ones in homes that lack having safety locks on cabinets, gates on stairs, covers on electrical outlets, etc.,  Often during holiday gatherings the adults are in a room and the kids are playing in another room leaving kids to stumble across potential hazards. Accidental shootings involving children spike around this time of the year, as kids stumble upon a relative's gun that their parents didn't know was in the house. This might also be a good time to go over gun safety with school-aged kids.

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