December 17, 2008
by Amy Movius MD
The holidays are an exciting time for everyone. Here are a few tips to help keep you and your family safe while enjoying this special season.
For many households, putting up a Christmas tree is a major part of the season. When selecting a precut tree, choose one with branches than bend (not break) and with needles that do not easily pull off. These are signs that it is fresher and therefore less combustible. You can also have a bit of the trunk cut off to expose fresh wood which will absorb water better. Speaking of water - be sure to keep the tree stand full; this will keep the tree from drying out as quickly.
Always keep Christmas trees away from any heat source; this includes fireplaces, radiators, wood stoves or portable heaters.
If you use an artificial tree, make sure it is labeled “fire resistant”.
Lights are a mainstay of holiday decorations. Even if your lights are brand new, check them to ensure all the bulbs are working and there are no loose sockets/cracked areas/other defects. If you place lights outdoors, be sure they are certified for this use. Metal and lights do not mix! This means no lights should be used on metal Christmas trees. Also the devices used to hang lights should not be metallic – i.e. no staples or tacks. There are noncombustible hooks or insulated staples available for safely hanging decorative lights. Although coming home to twinkling lights is a very pretty sight after a long day, you should always turn off all decorative lights when you are not home. If there is an electrical short while you are out, it can start a fire.
Candles are also traditional for many households during the holiday season. Location and attentiveness are essential to their safe use. Never use lighted candles on trees or near other greenery. The candle holders themselves should always be non-flammable and placed on secure surfaces where they will not be knocked over.
Ornaments should be flame resistant or made from non-combustible materials. Ornaments that are small or have removable parts should be placed out of the reach of children. Likewise, avoid ornaments that look like candy or other treats if children are around - they may try to eat them.
The most exciting part of the holidays for many is presents! While wrapping paper is being ripped off and thrown aside, it is important for someone to remain vigilant and keep track of the wrapping paper, bags, bows and ribbons during this time. These items can become fire, choking and suffocation hazards. Never burn wrapping paper, bows or ribbons in fireplaces; they can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
Especially for Children
Visiting friends and relatives is traditional for many during the holidays and can pose some extra safety challenges for small children. Other homes may not be childproofed, and though it can be socially awkward, asking your hosts to temporarily adjust their homes during the visit is essential. Another potentially touchy subject is the gifts your children may receive from well-meaning loved ones. All toys given should be age appropriate. If not, you will need to remove it from your child’s possession. No items with an electrical cord are appropriate for children under 10. Also, no items with strings or cords are appropriate for infants or young toddlers.
Hopefully, these safety tips will help you to enjoy the seasonal festivities with confidence and peace of mind. From all of us at EMMC, have a wonderful holiday season!
aap.org 2008 Holiday Safety Tips