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6 holiday safety tips for your family

The holidays are meant to be a special time. Sadly, each year, hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,500 people for injuries, such as falls, cuts, and shocks—many of those related to holiday lights, decorations, and Christmas trees. So, before you climb onto the roof and begin converting your house into a winter wonderland, here are a few tips to remember from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Tree. If purchasing an artificial tree, choose one labeled “Fire Resistant.” If purchasing a live tree, choose one that is fresh and green. The needles should be difficult to pull from the branches and should not break when bent between your fingers. Make sure your live tree has plenty of water and check it regularly. Heated rooms can dry a tree out quickly, making it much more likely to catch fire.

Holiday Lights. Use only lights that have fused plugs and make sure they are certified for safety in the intended location of use (indoor vs. outdoor). Check each set of lights for broken sockets, frayed wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Turn off your holiday displays when you go to bed or leave the house.

Decorations. Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant tree trimmings. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Move the ornaments that are breakable or have metal hooks towards the top of the tree. That makes room at the bottom for the ones that are safer for young kids. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them. Remove all wrapping papers, bags, paper, ribbons, and bows from tree and fireplace areas after gifts are opened. These items can pose suffocation and choking hazards to a small child or cause a fire if near a flame.

Toys. Follow recommended age ranges on toy packages. Read the instructions carefully before allowing your child to play with a new toy. Children under age three can choke on small parts contained in toys or games. Government regulations specify that toys for children under age three cannot have parts less than 1 ¼ inches in diameter and 2 ¼ inches long. Button batteries (frequently found in electronics) and magnets can be very dangerous. If either is swallowed, take your child immediately to the nearest emergency room. Toys with strings (if longer than 12 inches) can be a strangulation hazard, especially for babies.

Outdoor Play. Make sure your child’s gloves and shoes stay dry. Allow sledding only on shallow slopes that are free of obstacles such as trees, fences, and roadways. Prevent injuries by providing your child with competent instruction, proper equipment (such as a helmet for riding a bicycle, skateboard, etc.), and appropriate supervision.

Food Safety. Wash your hands thoroughly, and make sure your children do the same. Fully cook meats and poultry, and thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruits. Always keep raw foods and cooked foods separated to prevent cross-contamination. Keep hot liquids and foods away from counter and table edges. Do not leave perishable foods out longer than two hours. Leftovers should be eaten within 3-4 days.

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About Dr. Justin Morgan, Bundoo Pediatrician

Justin Morgan, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician who practices general pediatrics in Louisville, Kentucky. He cares for children of all ages.

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