Monday, December 3, 2012

Childhood Holiday Dangers

     Christmas trees, candles, ornaments, ribbons and strings of lights are all common, integral parts of the holiday season. But for kids, these items can also be dangerous. Children, especially those younger than age 5, can easily confuse exciting decorations as toys or something they can eat. Parents and guardians of children can make sure this holiday season is bright and safe with the following tips:

     Christmas Trees: A Christmas tree is a fun and classic decoration for the holiday season. If you decide to decorate with a live tree, make sure it is as fresh as possible so it is less likely to catch on fire. Also, keep the tree in a container with water, as you would a bouquet of flowers, and check often that there is plenty of water inside to keep it fresh.

     Besides reducing the risk of fire, keeping a live tree well hydrated will also help it retain more of its needles. No matter what, a live tree will always drop some needles, so vacuuming and sweeping them up frequently is important to protect young children and household pets from eating, and possibly choking on, them.

     Whether your tree is live or artificial, it is important to cut or bend away eye-level branches. Children running or playing by a tree with low branches are at a high risk for eye injury. Similarly, when selecting a stand for your tree, consider whether children bumping or falling into the tree would cause the tree to fall. Stands with wide bases are the most stable.

     Candles: Candles are a year-round danger for children, but around the holidays, the increased number of candles used as decoration or ambient light makes for a greater chance of disaster. The best thing parents and guardians can do to protect their children is to educate them from a young age to avoid and not touch candles, flames or matches. Family doctor, Dr. Natalie Moore, of Potomac Family Medicine, said, “Definitely use common sense. Keep candles high where children can’t climb up and reach them.” As a precaution, never leave a lit candle, lighters or matches unattended. Test your home smoke alarms frequently and discuss fire escape plans with your children so they know how to react in a worst-case scenario.

     Ornaments: Ornaments are a fun way to decorate for the holiday and can add lots of personalization to a tree or home. However, when it comes to the safety of children, make sure ornaments are out of reach, especially if they are small, breakable or have sharp metal hooks.

     Ribbons: Gifts wrapped in ribbon should be seen as a danger to children. It is not difficult for a child to trip, choke or become tangled or strangled on ribbon. Dr. Moore recommends that children be monitored at all times when there is ribbon involved. She said, “avoiding ribbon is even better, or use the stick-on bows.”

     Lights: Strings of holiday lights always signify the beginning of the holidays and add cheer and light to dark winter nights, inside and out. Before you decorate with lights, inspect each sting for broken bulbs and exposed wires. Keep lights away from young children by hanging them out of arms reach on trees. Children can easily trip or become tangled in the wires, so never leave string lights unattended. If you leave the house or go to bed, avoid any accidents or fires by unplugging or turning off the lights.

     The holiday season is an exciting and fun time to decorate your home and enjoy family. As parting advice, Dr. Moore offered these suggestions, “Be careful shopping, keep a close eye on children so they don’t get lost and also be careful with large gifts such as TVs so that they don’t fall on children.” Christmas trees, candles, ornaments, ribbons and lights all add to the magic of the holiday season and can be enjoyed by adults and children as long as proper safety measures are taken. When the holidays and children are mixed together, parents and guardians have to be extra vigilant to keep children, the most precious gifts, safe.

By: Sarah Koons

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