November 24, 2003
Families urged to make a safety list, check it twice this Christmas season
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Holiday decorations are all about making your home merry and bright.
But if you’re not careful, they also can make your home a dangerous place for children, says Lauren Fairburn, coordinator of Think First, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s statewide injury prevention program.
“Many items known to create holiday magic in our homes can also cause a devastating injury to a child,” Fairburn said. “Make sure decorations for your Christmas tree are age-appropriate for your child. Place lights, breakable bulbs and any ornament or decoration with detachable parts out of the reach of small children.”
Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for children and Fairburn says that it is best to keep any decoration in question out of harm’s way until your children are older.
Be especially cautious about candle use, she said. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), candle fires occur almost twice as much during December than any other time of year.
“Make sure candle holders are sturdy and won't tip over easily and aren’t near flammable decorations such as a Christmas tree or garland” said Fairburn.
She urges people to keep all candles out of the reach of children and to extinguish candles when leaving a room or going to sleep. Place matches and lighters out of children's reach.
Fairburn’s tips for safe holiday decorating include:
- Never put popcorn or other candies in reach of small children.
- Always unplug Christmas tree lights and extinguish all burning candles when leaving a room. Unplug any outdoor lighting before bed or leaving the house.
- Have visitors place any medicines and toilettes, especially nail polish remover and other poisonous items, out of the reach of small children.
- Check your smoke detector once a month and change the batteries twice a year. Does your family have a fire escape plan? If not, now is a good time to develop one.
- Be aware of treats lurking around in cute holiday dishes. Nuts and candies are a choking hazard to small children.
- Make sure there are no children in the kitchen while cooking. Sometimes mass confusion around mealtime is a breeding ground for injuries resulting from scalding hot water, knives and breakable dishware.
- Be sure to empty any alcoholic beverage glasses that are lying around, so that little ones don’t do it for you.
If you’re visiting family or friends over the holidays, Fairburn suggests that you make sure your surrounding have been child-proofed. She recommends designating a family member to be responsible for small children at all times.
“Many parents feel secure when family is around and sort of take a break from supervising their children,” said Fairburn. “Never assume anyone is watching your child if you have to leave the room.”
Fairburn recommends using baby gates or play yards to contain small children.
Safe traveling tips this Christmas season include:
- Be sure to use appropriate car seats and seat belts for your children when traveling. If you are traveling in someone else's car, arrange ahead of time to borrow or rent the appropriate car seat for your child.
- Be extra patient when traveling during the holidays.
- Never talk on a cell phone while driving.
- Expect increased traffic on the road and allow more time to reach your destination.
- Never allow luggage or other items to block the rear window.
- Remember to rest every two to three hours.
“Safe and sober driving must be a priority for everyone,” said Fairburn. “We want holiday celebrations to be fun, exciting and most importantly, safe.”