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Tips on Avoiding Holiday Hazards for Kids

Gingerbread house Health Central Dec 2016It’s beginning to look a lot like the time of year to child-proof homes for the holidays.

“Around the holidays, families bring a lot of new items into their homes that seem innocent,” said Michael Mitchell, M.D., pediatric emergency medicine physician at Brenner Children’s Hospital, part of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “Some of these items such as animated decorations, mistletoe, bubble lights used as Christmas tree decorations and even musical cards can pose a potential threat to young children though.”

Lithium batteries, also known as button batteries, are often found in small animated toys or decorations, musical greeting cards, flashing holiday jewelry and flameless candles, according to Mitchell. Children can have serious intestinal and esophageal complications – including death – after swallowing one of these.

“Lithium batteries are circular, flat and vary in size,” said Mitchell. “Parents should ensure products containing these batteries are properly secured and if it’s suspected a child has swallowed a battery, the child should immediately be taken to an emergency department.”

Christmas tree ornaments also can pose a threat to young children and should be placed higher than the child’s reach. Ornaments can be swallowed by a child and present a choking risk or cause lacerations to the gastrointestinal tract or skin since they are often made of glass, according to Mitchell. If it’s suspected a child has ingested an ornament, the child should immediately be treated at an emergency department. 

For a safe holiday season, Mitchell and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer these additional tips:

Decoration Risks:

  • Clean up carefully after wrapping gifts. Certain tapes, ribbons and wrapping paper—especially shiny foil paper—can contain lead. 
  • Don’t allow children access to bubble lights. This decoration contains methylene chloride and can be poisonous if swallowed.
  • Keep holly berries, mistletoe, poinsettias and Jerusalem cherry plants away from children. Ingestion can pose potential poisoning risks.

Toy Safety:

  • Helmets should always be worn when riding bicycles, scooters or skateboards.
  • Select toys to suit the age, abilities and skill level of the intended child. Toys too advanced can pose safety hazards for younger children.
  • Read instructions carefully before buying or allowing a child to play with a toy.
  • Remove tags, strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children.
  • Avoid pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length. They could be a strangulation hazard for babies.

“Over the holidays, many families with young children will also be visiting extended-family who may not have a child-proofed home—parents should be especially watchful when visiting these environments,” said Mitchell. “Parents should pay special attention to stairwells that are not gated, uncovered electrical outlets and any medications that are within a young child’s reach.”

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Last Updated: 12-13-2016
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