Holiday safety: Avoiding hazards during the holidays

Children sneaking holiday cookies

Holiday festivities can quickly lose their appeal with a trip to the Emergency room. During the holiday season, Emergency rooms usually see a greater volume of patients, especially for preventable poisonings, notes Frank LoVecchio, DO, a medical toxicologist with the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center. From medications to lamp oils, alcohol to scented candles, the decorations and household items that children are usually exposed to during the holidays are often not properly secured or childproofed.

Dr. LoVecchio’s holiday safety tips

  • Holiday travelers tend to keep their medications with them in their purses or jackets. While this helps them keep up with their medication schedules, it also makes these medications easily accessible for curious children. Ask your guests to store their medications in a secure cabinet out of children’s reach during their visit or be sure to stow their jackets and purses out of reach.
  • Keep cleaning supplies in their original containers and away from children. Do not count on your own labeling of bottles to get the information needed if someone should drink or spill it by mistake.
  • Keep alcohol out of reach and be sure to promptly pick up and empty leftover glasses of alcohol and wine.
  • Do not keep non-edible items in the refrigerator. A quickly mistaken grab of something to eat or drink could lead to trouble.
  • Keep all candles that require oil or colorful and/or scented candles out of children’s reach.
  • Carbon monoxide is commonly referred to as silent killer. Do not use charcoal or propane grills, etc inside the house.
  • Though they’re not the fatal poisons that they were once believed to be, poinsettias and other holiday plants, if consumed, can cause some mild gastrointestinal discomfort and vomiting in dogs and cats.
  • Keep small children and animals away from other seasonal plants. This includes Mistletoe berries, Holly berries, the fruit of Jerusalem Cherry, the leaves and twigs of Boxwood and all parts of Yew plants.
  • Christmas tree preservatives are usually not toxic. Still, check the label for special ingredients and warnings. If methyl salicylate is on the ingredient label, it is highly toxic. One mouthful of the concentrate can be deadly to a toddler.
  • The prettiest old ornaments might have hidden hazards. Beware of cuts from broken glass. Also, the decorations on some older ornaments may have harmful lead paints.
  • Lead is also a hazard in some tree light wires. Wash hands before and after handling tree lights.
  • Make sure small button batteries are not available to children. One swallowed battery can potentially make a child very sick, requiring referral to a hospital.

In case of emergency

If you or someone in your household may have accidentally ingested poison, call our free 24-hour emergency hotline, (800) 222-1222. If in Arizona with an out-of-state cell phone, dial (602) 253-3334.

We staff our poison center 365 days a year by trained experts ready to answer your questions. Thousands of people have avoided a trip to the busy emergency room by calling the hotline, which has served the community for more than 30 years.

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