Play it Safe: Dangerous Toys Not the Only Holiday Hazard

The weather outside isn't the only thing that's frightful. Fire, food poisoning, winter-sports injuries—these are just a few of the potential safety hazards to watch out for this holiday season. To keep your family safe during the most wonderful (and dangerous) time of the year, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer these tips.

Fire Safety
Safe Holiday Cooking

It's Party Time
Outdoor Fun
Further Reading

Fire Safety

  • Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially outside the bedrooms. Make sure each smoke detector contains fresh batteries that are less than one year old.  It’s also a good idea to test your smoke detectors monthly.

  • Use a sturdy fireplace screen to prevent stray sparks from igniting newspapers, carpeting, curtains and upholstery.

  • Only use the fireplace when you’re at home and awake.  Never leave kids unattended in a room with a fireplace.  

  •  Make sure all electrical cords are in good condition. Replace frayed cords, and never run cords under the carpet.

  • Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney sweep. A dirty fireplace can cause chimney fires or contribute to air pollution.

  • Keep candles at least three feet away from flammable materials, such as curtains, Christmas trees, wrapping paper and magazines.

  • Have fire extinguishers on hand—in the kitchen, next to the fireplace and on each level of your home. Make sure you know how to use the fire extinguisher, because if a fire breaks out you won’t have time to read the instructions.
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 Safe Holiday Cooking

  • Always use a thermometer to ensure that meat and poultry are thoroughly cooked.

  • Scrub and wash raw vegetables and fruits.

  • Wash your hands with an antibacterial soap before cooking or eating, and make sure your children do the same.

  • Thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator, never on the countertop.

  • Don’t leave food out at room temperature for more than two hours.

  • Clean cutting boards immediately with warm water and dishwashing soap.
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It's Party Time!

  • Remember to clean up after a holiday party. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food, party favors or wrapping paper.

  • Request that guests refrain from smoking in your home—infants and young children who are exposed to secondhand smoke regularly experience a significantly greater number of lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, than those living in a smoke-free environment, reports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

  • The homes you visit this holiday season, in all likelihood, will not be completely childproofed. Closely survey any place you visit, looking for such potential hazards as furniture with sharp edges, low-hanging window blind cords, steep stairways without safety gates and hard candies sitting in an open dish.

  • If you plan to attend a holiday party and your child has food allergies, contact the hosts beforehand and provide them with the necessary information.  Make sure you know what foods will be served and if any of them contain ingredients that could trigger an allergic reaction.
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Outdoor Fun

  • Prohibit children from sledding on the road. Look for shallow slopes that are free of trees and fences. Avoid large crowds whenever possible. A slope crowded with kids on sleds can quickly turn into a demolition derby—and a trip to the emergency room.

  • Most skiing and skating injuries involve twists, sprains and strains. Prevent injuries by providing your child with competent instruction, proper equipment and appropriate supervision.  If you’re a novice too, look into signing up your child for skating or skiing lessons with a certified instructor who specializes in teaching children.
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Further Reading: For more safety tips, check out these resources:

  • Home Safety Center: Childproof Your Home Inside and Out

  • 5 Key Product Safety Precautions

    On the Web

  • Sparky the Fire Dog: The National Fire Protection Agency’s site for kids

  • Childproofing Your Home: 12 Saftey Devices to Protect Your Children from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

  • Environmental Explorers Club: A kids' site from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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