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Keep an eye out for holiday hazards

Keeping an eye out for holiday hazards
Written by Natalie Lane

Deck the halls with boughs of holly, but be careful that you don’t prick your finger. It sounds silly, but it can certainly happen. This would be a minor mishap, but there are many serious dangers that could send your child to the emergency room if you don’t keep a close eye out during the holidays.

Enjoy the holiday season by avoiding these common holiday hazards:

Accidental poisonings & choking

One of the biggest dangers for babies and small children is accidental ingestion of items such as poison mistletoe or poinsettia berries, button batteries, fallen ornament pieces or tiny toy parts. Berries from holly, mistletoe, poinsettia, amaryllis, boxwood, English ivy, and many other yuletide plants can be quite harmful if swallowed. If you must use live plants, be sure to pick up leaves, berries and other fallen plant material, and always keep these items out of reach of children. For a safer option, decorate with artificial varieties instead.

Coin or button batteries can be found in TV remotes, calculators, flameless candles, children’s toys and many other items commonly found in the home. About 3,500 battery-swallowing cases are reported to poison control centers each year. These batteries can get stuck in a child’s throat and burn through to the esophagus in as little as two hours. Children under 4 are at greatest risk because they tend to put everything in their mouths.

To protect your children, keep devices with button batteries out of reach if the battery compartment is not secured. The best security for these are the compartments that require a screw driver or similar tool to open.

If a child swallows a button battery, go to the emergency room right away. Do not allow the child to eat or drink anything, and do not induce vomiting as these actions can actually increase the damage to the internal organs.

Tree topples

A curious, determined child can quickly pull off string lights, ornaments and, possibly, topple a Christmas tree. A couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to tree safety are the following:

  • Use a large, sturdy tree stand.
  • Cut branches near the bottom so they aren’t an eye hazard for small children.
  • Keep sharp or breakable ornaments out of reach of children.
  • Consider putting a safety gate or other protection around the tree when baby or small children are in the room.
  • Never leave children unattended around the tree or any other holiday decorations, especially candles and other fire hazards.

Speaking of candles, it’s best to use artificial candles rather than real ones that drip hot wax and cause burns to the skin or start fires in the home.

If you think your child may have an emergency, don’t wait.
At the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, we have an emergency department specifically tailored to fit the needs of children, and we are here 24/7. Our pediatric emergency department serves over 28,000 pediatric patients each year. For more information call 706-721-7337 (PEDS) or visit augustahealth.org/kids.

About the author

Natalie Lane

Medical Director, Children’s Hospital of Georgia Emergency Department, and Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine in the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University