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Fill-in-Blank News Release for County Health Departments

For Release: April __, 2003
Contact: (Administrator)
________ County Health Department
(Telephone #)

Have a Safe and Fun Holiday Season

The _____ County Health Department staff wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday season. The holidays are an exciting time for children as well as adults. To keep your family and friends safe, the _____ County Health Department is joining with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to offer the following holiday safety tips:

Trees

  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant."
  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, less of a fire hazard, and should not lose many needles when tapped on the ground.
  • When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Keep the tree stand filled with water and do not block doorways.
  • Cut a few inches off the trunk of the tree for better water absorption and to keep it fresh longer.
  • Check all new or used tree lights before hanging them to make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.

Lights

  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they are certified for outdoor use. To hold lights in place, use hooks or insulated staples. Never pull or tug to remove lights.
  • Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
  • Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.

Decorations

  • Use non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if swallowed by children.
  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
  • In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable. Keep trimmings with small removable parts away from children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food.
  • Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair." Follow container directions to avoid lung irritation from use of artificial snow sprays.

Toy Safety

  • Follow recommended ages on toy packages to avoid safety hazards for younger children.
  • Before buying a toy or allowing your child to play with a toy that he has received as a gift, read the instructions carefully. If the toy is appropriate, show him how to use it properly.
  • Be careful of holiday gift-wrapping like bags, paper, ribbons and bows. These items can pose suffocation and choking hazards to a small child.
  • To prevent both burns and electrical shocks, don't give young children (under age ten) a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy battery-operated toys.
  • 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 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.
  • Children under age 8 can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Remove strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children.
  • Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length. They could be a strangulation hazard for babies.

Outdoor Fun

  • Make sure your child's gloves and shoes stay dry. If they get wet, change into a dry pair.
  • Sledding on or into the roadway should be prohibited. Look for shallow slopes that are free of obstacles such as trees and fences.
  • Cutting down your own tree for the holiday may start a wonderful family tradition. Young children can pick out the tree while an adult does the chopping or cutting.

Food Safety

  • Bacteria are often present in raw foods. Fully cook meats and poultry, and thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruits.
  • Be sure to keep hot liquids and foods away from the edges of counters and tables, where they can be easily knocked over by a young child's exploring hands.
  • Wash your hands frequently, and make sure your children do the same.
  • Never put a spoon used to taste food back into food without washing it.
  • Always keep raw foods and cooked foods separate, and use separate utensils when preparing them.
  • Always thaw meat in the refrigerator, never on the countertop.
  • Never leave foods that require refrigeration at room temperature for more than two hours.

Happy Visiting

  • Clean up immediately after a holiday party. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco.
  • Homes you visit may not be childproofed so look for danger spots.
  • Keep a list of important and emergency phone numbers you or a baby-sitter may need, including the police and fire department, pediatrician or family physician, and the poison control center.
  • Ask your neighbor if he has a gun before sending your kids over to play. If the answer is yes, make sure all guns are stored unloaded and locked - ideally in a gun safe - with ammunition locked separately.

Fireplaces

  • Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They can cause gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
  • Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace because they can cause a flash fire.

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