Skip to content

PrACTice safety first during holidays

PrACTice safety first during holidays

Posted: Thursday, December 4, 2008 12:19 pm

More than any other time of the year, parents exert superhuman powers (beyond Santa Claus, beyond Superman or the Bionic Woman!) to ensure that the holidays are not only special but perfect for their children. Be it Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza or another cultural celebration, the winter holiday is the time to not only cherish spirituality and tradition, but to gift the little ones, inasmuch as is possible, with the toys and goodies of their dreams. Well-meaning mothers and fathers peruse catalogs and the Internet, careen wildly through crowded retail outlets and consult with overwhelmed clerks as to where to unearth the season’s most coveted toys. The house is festooned with colorful décor, and decadent holiday foods abound. At its best, the holiday season is the time for families to reconnect, indulge and enjoy. On the other hand, the myriad details required to create the perfect holiday can be over-whelming, and, at times, safety considerations may be overlooked. PrACTice safety first with holiday trees, toys and treats. Remembering the simple acronym ACT can be helpful in assuring that children enjoy safe holidays. A — Age Appropriateness: Holiday trees are beloved by adults and children alike but may pose safety threats to the little ones. Inviting glass ornaments may break; electrical cords are trip and electrocution hazards. Trees themselves may topple under investigation by curious toddlers. Be certain that trees are age appropriate for any youngsters in the house. American toy manufacturers include age ranges on many of their products. While younger children may clamor for toys marketed to older children, bear in mind the relative sophistication of the toy and the child. Younger children may not be safe playing with battery or electric-powered toys. Remember, as well, the packaging. Toddlers love to play with boxes and plastic bags; asphyxiation dangers are possible. C — Choking Hazard: Old-fashioned trees are charming; strings of popcorn and candy canes look lovely against their green backdrop, but they can also attract young palates. Be certain that children do not choke on any tree decorations. Icicles are an intriguing, glittery item that some little ones may attempt to consume. Toys often feature small, detachable parts that can find their way into a baby or toddler’s windpipe. It is important to not only monitor the little one’s toys but to ensure, as well, that they cannot access their older sibling’s items and encounter choking hazards. Many holiday treats can lodge in the throats of young children. Beware of hard candies, nuts and other edibles that little ones cannot chew efficiently. Even nutritious snacks from the crudités tray can be dangerous. Broccoli and cauliflower florets and baby carrots are examples of some items to consider. T — Toxicity: All that glitters … could be dangerous. … Be aware of lead and other toxins in the home. Christmas trees and their finery are responsible for several lead poisoning concerns. PVC is used as an insulating agent in some artificial trees, as well as many Christmas tree lights. Lead is contained within the PVC and also used as a fire retardant. Aging artificial trees may shed lead dust. Contact contamination may occur in handling Christmas lights. Older tree ornaments may be coated with lead paint that can chip. For safety’s sake, do not use an artificial tree that contains lead; contact the manufacturer if there is any doubt. Lights should be handled by adults only, who should be certain to thoroughly cleanse their hands afterwards. Vintage ornaments are best displayed out of reach of children. Some holiday greenery also carries a risk of poisoning. The berries of holly and mistletoe, attractive to young children, can cause illness and even death if consumed. Enjoy these seasonal favorites out of reach of small fingers — and mouths. Likewise, lead paint continues to be a concern in some toys, particularly those manufactured in foreign countries. Consult labels to check for lead content. The CDC maintains an excellent site chronicling items recalled for lead content — www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/Recalls/. In the past year, toys, play jewelry and kiddy cosmetics have all been targeted for product recalls. Finally, be careful to serve holiday treats on safe dinnerware. Avoid lead crystal, as lead may leach into food or beverages. Some decorative ceramic and porcelain ware may also contain lead in the glazing or paints. These bowls and platters should be used for display purposes only and never as serving pieces. ACT always to safeguard the most precious of human resources — children. May the holidays be a safe and peaceful time of rejoicing and renewal. Editor’s note: Compiled by Bonnie Hinds, Extension assistant, Environmental Health Programs. Published in The Messenger 12.3.08

Leave a Comment