Yes, it’s holiday season once again, and what better time to remind everyone of some simple things you can do to keep you and your children safe and sound.
First, if you have a tree, secure it well to keep it from tipping. If it is a live tree, make sure it’s fresh, green and that the needles are hard to pull off. Keep it well watered and away from floor heaters, fireplaces, or other heat sources. If it is artificial, make sure it is fire resistant.
As for ornaments, keep no more than three strands of lights linked together on an extension cord, and never use electric lights on a metal tree. Don’t forget to inspect those light strings each year for frayed cords, cracked lamp holders or loose connections.
If there are children in the home, tinsel and small decorations and bulbs can be a choking hazard and should not be at the bottom of the tree where small children can reach for them and then put into their mouths. In addition, some of the light products bought at stores warn about lead content in the wires that come with the lights. While the amount of lead contained in these wires is small, it is still a good idea not to ask children to hang lights and for adults to wear protective gloves when stringing the lights.
As to candles, avoid candles on trees and please keep candles placed elsewhere out of reach of small children or just don’t light them up at all with children in the house. Battery operated candles can be a much safer alternative as long as they don’t heat up to the point of causing a burn if touched.
Turn off all lights and blow out all candles when you sleep or leave the house to avoid a potential fire hazard – and make sure your smoke detector is working.
Most holiday plants are safe, but remember that mistletoe and holly berries eaten in excess can be dangerous. If your child does snack on a holiday plant, you can always call the Northern New England Regional Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.
If you are hosting a party in your home, don’t forget to clean up the night of the party so your child doesn’t discover alcohol or small snack foods that can be choking hazards the morning after.
(Closing paragraph sung to “The Christmas Song”)
“And so I’m wishing you safe holidays,
So no one has to flip their lids.
This is pediatrician Dr. Lewis First,
Hoping you’ll be safe and always First with Kids.”
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the UVM College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids