The holidays are our favorite time of year. Family, friends, special meals, lights and decorations all make this time of year memorable. But the festivities often come with hidden dangers, particularly for children. Here are some tips to keep your kids safe this season:
Holiday decor certainly makes our homes look festive, but it may pose a danger to small children. Make sure breakable decorations and candles are not within reach of little hands. Consider plastic ornaments if more appropriate. Small tree lights may also be a choking hazard and tempting to young eyes.
Toys are the highlight of every child’s holiday season, but they may be hazardous, too. Make sure you are selecting age-appropriate toys, not only for optimizing your child’s development, but also to ensure that these products are specifically engineered for your child’s safety. If you have older children, eliminate small parts so that they do not pose a choking hazard to your toddler. If the toy part can fit through the cardboard of a toilet paper roll, then it is a choking hazard for children under 3. Any swallowed battery or magnet requires prompt attention in the emergency room.
Sitting around the table and sharing a meal is where we create memories as a family, but even food can cause danger. Any food that is round and globular, such as grapes, nuts and popcorn, can pose a choking hazard to toddlers and small children. Also, ensure that children always eat sitting down. Excited children on the go and eating do not mix!
With all the pretty decorations displayed in our homes this time of year, many can look tempting and even edible. Beware of holiday plants, including poinsettias, holly and mistletoe, that can be toxic to children and pets.
Holiday guests may not store medicine properly and curious toddlers may rummage through Grandma’s purse if left within reach. Program the Florida Poison Information Center phone number — 1-800-222-1222 — in your phone. They are available 24/7 and can determine if home observation or a trip to the emergency room is needed.
Foods can also be a source of poisons. Keep raw meats away from prepared foods and be certain to sanitize all kitchen prep surfaces. Additionally, prepared foods generally should not be left out more than two to three hours so that they do not spoil.
Be mindful of small children when visiting the homes of friends and family, as child-proofing may not exist. Stairs, pools, kitchens and bathrooms may pose a threat. During your holiday cooking, be sure to turn all pan handles inward to prevent reaching hands from scalds and burns.
Accidents may also happen with the new bicycles and toys we give our children. Make sure your child is developmentally ready to maneuver that new bike, scooter, skateboard, etc. Helmets are essential — no exceptions.
Lastly, motor vehicle accidents escalate this time of year. Ensure your child’s safety by properly restraining them in the appropriate car or booster seat. Designate your driver if applicable.
The holiday season is the perfect time to change your smoke detector batteries and check to make sure your fire extinguisher is not yet expired. Be prepared before your guests arrive.
Live trees need to be placed away from heaters,radiators, and candles. Make sure your tree is properly watered to decrease its flammable risk.
Family holiday meals are rarely prepared by one person. Be vigilant and ask about potential food allergens. Get older children in the habit of ingredient inquiry as well. Always pack your Epinephrine auto-injector and check its expiration date.
As everyone gathers to celebrate, now is the time to make sure your children are healthy. Minimize the risk of becoming ill by getting necessary vaccinations, including a flu shot.
Infants should be up to date on their vaccines to decrease the risk of potentially fatal illnesses. Approximately 75 percent of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is transmitted through parents and grandparents. Now is the perfect time to speak with your pediatrician and take the necessary precautions.
Don’t underestimate hand hygiene. Wash your hands frequently and properly. Teach your children this necessary skill as well.
These tips should help keep your family safe this holiday season. Happy Holidays!
Andrea M. Assantes, M.D., is a pediatrician with UHealth – the University of Miami Health System. For more information, visit UHealthSystem.com/patients/pediatrics.