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Healthy Kids: Keep kids safe this holiday season

(Stock photo by Adobe provided by Healthy Kids/Kelli Warner)

The holidays can be an exciting time, from fun decorations to family traditions, but many items that make the holidays merry may also pose a health or safety risk to children.

“Every year, we see kids who get the ornaments off the tree, they break, and then they put the shiny glass in their mouth,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw with Eugene Pediatric Associates.

Parents are advised to be extra vigilant this time of year and follow these safety tips to help ensure an injury-free holiday season:

Trimming the tree

• Avoid sharp or breakable ornaments. Or place them high up on the tree, out of reach of little hands.

• Use only plain water in tree stands. Homemade or commercial tree preservatives (especially if they’re made with bleach and vinegar or alcohol) can harm your children or pets if they drink them.

• Make sure trees and decorations are properly secured, either by a sturdy stand or to the wall.

• Clean up fallen needles quickly. If swallowed, needles can cause painful cuts in the mouth and throat.

Lights

• Inspect your tree lights for frayed or exposed wires, or loose connections.

• Make sure no wires are pinched by furniture and no cords run under rugs. That can create a fire hazard.

• Avoid overloading extension cords.

“Children sense danger and go straight for it, so if you have anything that’s electrical, try to make the wires and outlets harder for your younger kids to access,” says Dr. Bradshaw.

Décor

Along with sparkly ornaments, fun holiday decorations attract the attention of little ones and they may want to put them in their mouth. If an object can fit through a toilet paper tube, it can obstruct the airway of a small child and prevent breathing. Talk to your children about holiday decorations and explain that they are not toys.

Toys

• Only buy toys that are age-appropriate, and read the warning labels.

• Watch out for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length; they could pose a strangulation hazard for babies.

• If you have small children in the house, avoid toys with button batteries.

“Anything that lights up or spins around probably has those very small button batteries. Those are unsafe for young kids, because they can kill your child if they swallow them.”

Batteries of any size can cause burns in the esophagus within two hours after they're swallowed. Never leave batteries sitting out, and use tape to secure any battery compartments that may open if dropped.

Also, avoid magnets. If swallowed, magnets can attract to one another in a child’s intestine and cause serious complications and even death.

Guests

If you have people visiting for the holidays, or you’re traveling to a relative’s home, be aware that they may not be as diligent about child-proofing.

“Sometimes, people staying with you have medicines in their purse. And while it’s not a danger to them that they leave the bottle half-open due to, perhaps, their arthritis, that’s a huge danger to your kids,” Dr. Bradshaw says.

When guests visit, have a designated place for their purses and coats where your children can’t get to them. In addition to medication, people often carry other items that can be dangerous to small children, including cigarettes and perfume.

Dr. Bradshaw recommends that you get down on your hands and knees and examine your surroundings from your child’s point of view. You may be surprised to see potential dangers that you didn’t notice before.

Be prepared, just in case

According to the National Capitol Poison Center, accidental poisonings increase during the holidays and when families travel. Keep the number for poison control posted on the fridge or by the phone, or save it to your mobile phone contacts, where you can easily access it: 1-800-222-1222.

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