FOR RELEASE: December 14, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
'TIS THE SEASON FOR HOLIDAY SAFETY
The scene is all too familiar – frenzied parents rushing through packed-to-the-ceiling aisles searching for the perfect gifts and decorations to celebrate their holiday festivities. Many parents feel relief when they're done, but they may not realize that their work has just begun. With all of the decorating, gift giving and festivity fanfare, making your holiday safe for children will be the most important preparation of all.
"It's easy to become caught up in the excitement of holiday decorating and overlook potential hazards of decorations," said Martha Collar, coordinator, Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health. "Whether you're putting up a Christmas tree or lighting the Menorah or Kwanzaa candles, taking simple precautions can help make your holidays more joyful and safe."
SAFE KIDS recommends the following tips to keep your holiday season safe:
Lights and Candles
- Decorate your tree using only UL-approved lights and cords. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections or broken sockets. Do not overload extension cords. Use no more than three strings of lights on one extension cord, and never run an electrical cord under a carpet. Be sure to secure electrical cords so children cannot pull on them and topple the tree. Keep toddlers away from electrical fixtures and install outlet covers on electrical sockets when they are not in use. Avoid small plastic outlet covers as they may pose a choking hazard.
- Turn off the tree lights when you go to bed, depart from home or leave the tree in an unattended room.
- Keep burning candles out of children's reach; keep matches and lighters out of reach. Do not leave candles unattended.
- Do not place candles near draperies or anything that might easily catch fire. If you build a fire, use a fireplace screen and do not leave young children alone in the room. Make sure you put out fires and candles when you go to bed or leave the home.
- Install smoke alarms in your home on every level and in every sleeping area. Test alarms once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year. Home fires and home fire-related deaths are more likely to occur during the cold weather months.
- Plan and practice several fire escape routes from each room of your home and identify an outside meeting place.
- If you choose a natural tree, look for the freshest tree available. Fresh trees are less likely to catch fire than older trees. Look for one that doesn't lose needles easily. (A safer option is to buy a fire-resistant, artificial tree.)
- Keep your natural tree in a container full of water and check it daily.
- Use a wide-based stand to make sure the tree is secure and will not fall over.
- Cover the tree basin with a tree skirt or blanket.
- Keep the tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces, radiators and heating vents.
- Decorate your tree with children in mind. Do not put breakable ornaments, ornaments with small, detachable parts, metal hooks, or those that look like food or candy on the lower branches where small children can reach them. Also, make sure tree lights are hung out of reach of young children.
- Never burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in your fireplace.
- Dispose of your tree promptly after the holidays; don't leave it indoors for more than two weeks.
Holiday Foods and Ornaments
Some foods and objects pose a choking hazard to young children; especially children under age 5. To help prevent unintentional choking during the holidays:
- Keep round, hard foods and candies such as candy cane pieces, mints, nuts and popcorn out of reach of young children.
- Keep small ornaments, tinsel, small figurines and other decorations away from children's reach. Young children have a tendency to put everything in their mouths.
While preparing your home for the holidays, be aware of seemingly innocent and unexpected forms of poison.
- Open the flue in your fireplace when burning wood to provide adequate ventilation. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases dramatically in the winter. Proper ventilation of fuel-burning appliances reduces this risk. Check these appliances annually and before use in cold-weather months. Install UL-approved carbon monoxide detectors in sleeping areas and on every level of your home.
- Keep alcoholic drinks and containers out of reach. Holiday beverages such as eggnog laced with alcohol may be sweet and inviting to young children. Do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended. They could be harmful if consumed by children.
- Keep common baking ingredients such as vanilla and almond extract out of reach. They contain high levels of alcohol and may be harmful to children.
- Beware of fire salts used in fireplaces to produce colored flames. They contain heavy metals and cause intense gastrointestinal irritation or vomiting if eaten.
- Keep poisonous plants out of reach. Watch for holly and mistletoe berries that fall on the ground because they are poisonous if eaten. Other poisonous holiday plants include amaryllis, azalea, boxwood, Christmas rose, Crown of Thorns, English ivy and Jerusalem cherry. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous, but they can cause skin irritation and gastrointestinal distress.
- Avoid using artificial snow sprays to decorate. These sprays can cause lung irritation if inhaled.
- List poison control center and emergency medical service phone numbers by all telephones. In addition, leave a phone number for baby-sitters so they can reach you if you go out to a holiday party.
- Keep ipecac syrup in the home for use only on the advice of a poison control center or physician.