No holiday is fun when someone gets hurt. During the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, most homes fill up with new and different items that can be potentially harmful to children, particularly for infants, toddlers and preschool-age children who may not recognize harmful substances. The three biggest problems that parents should watch out for include poisoning, choking and fire. Prevention, of course, is the best way to avoid these issues altogether.

Hazard Awareness for Parents

Poisoning during the holiday season most often occurs due to new Christmas plants that are brought into the house. Most people know that Poinsettias should be kept away from children; in addition, mistletoe and holly are common household plants that can induce nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and worrisome rashes. Food poisoning and alcohol poisoning are also higher this time of year. Parents who suspect that their children may have ingested something harmful should immediately contact their pediatricians. After office hours, the National Poison Center hotline can be contacted at 1-800-222-1222.

Christmas trees present many opportunities for choking hazards. Small light bulbs, ornaments, strings of popcorn and even pine needles can easily become lodged in small throats when young children see these brightly colored items. Prevent these concerns by hanging small or dangerous ornaments high on the tree or by installing a large play yard around the tree to prevent children from reaching it.

Dangers of Home Fires

Live trees also prevent very real opportunities for a fire in the home. These should be kept well-watered to prevent them from drying out as much as possible. All trees should also be kept away from heating vents, radiators, and electrical outlets. In addition, parents should be careful not to overload electrical outlets, to keep candles away from little hands and to keep fireplaces professionally cleaned every season before lighting them.

While these are the most common accidents that parents see around the holidays, many other opportunities abound for children to be hurt accidentally. Car accidents increase because of the influx of cars on the road and because of wintry weather in northern or mountainous climates. Finally, parents should beware of kitchen accidents, which may occur when children try to help with stovetop cooking or with cookie preparation.

Do not let a potential accident ruin your holiday. Contact Dr. Matney for any advice about preventing accidents around the house. In addition, Dr. Matney offers numerous office hours around the holidays for parents’ convenience.