CHETEK, Wis. – The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be a fun, exciting time. However, holiday decorations, parties and cold weather can pose threats to children.
"The décor, the gifts and the fun outdoor activities can be a lot of fun for families, especially children," says Peter Reisner, M.D., a family medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Chetek, Wisconsin. "But parents should be aware of the hidden dangers they may not be thinking about when putting up the Christmas tree or heading out for an afternoon of sledding."
Dr. Reisner recommends these safety tips while preparing for the holidays:
If you have a real tree, ensure the tree stand is always filled with water so the tree doesn't dry out and pose an increased fire hazard. If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it is made from fire-retardant material. Make sure the stand is flat on the ground and decorate the tree to equally distribute weight.
Don't leave children alone in a room with lighted candles, matches, lighters, fireplaces, or any other sources of flame or heat.
Keep decorations out of reach of children and secured to the wall. Any object small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube can obstruct a child's airway. Closely supervise children if they're helping you decorate, especially when handling lighting, ornaments and breakable objects.
Keep mistletoe, holly berries and poinsettias out of reach of children, as each is toxic when ingested.
Use power strips with built-in circuit breakers. Avoid putting too many plugs into one electrical outlet. Keep cords out of the way or behind furniture, and insert electrical outlet covers into unused outlets. Purchase lights with the UL Listed mark, which certifies that the product has been tested to meet safety requirements.
Make sure your children's toys are age-appropriate and the batteries cannot be easily removed. Batteries shaped like disks, or button batteries, pose a choking risk to young children. Avoid placing gifts under the tree that contain glass, perfume or cologne, poisonous substances or sharp materials.
Keep alcohol out of reach of children. Quickly clean up leftover drinks.
Dress children properly for the weather, making sure that their hands, feet and heads are covered. Supervise children and make sure they wear the correct safety gear for sledding, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and other outdoor activities.
"Carefully inspecting your home and taking care of any safety hazards can ensure you and your children have a happy and safe holiday season," says Dr. Reisner.
About Mayo Clinic Health System
Mayo Clinic Health System has a physical presence in 44 communities and consists of 53 clinics, 16 hospitals and other facilities that serve the healthcare needs of people in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based healthcare professionals, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality physical and virtual healthcare close to home.