(11/30/10) - In addition to food, family, and gifts, decorations are one of the highlights of the holiday season. While candles, Christmas trees, and other decorations are part of the holiday spirit, they can pose fire and poisoning hazards, especially to curious children.
"The holidays are a time for spending with family and friends, not rushing to the emergency room," says Erin Faile, Safe Kids Florence Coordinator. "Once all of your decorations are up, keeping a close eye on both children and the decorations themselves is an important step to a safe holiday season."
In 2005, candles started 15,600 home fires in the United States. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the top four days for candle fires are around Christmas and New Year's. Using battery-operated flameless candles is an alternative that does not pose a fire risk.
"Never leave lit candles unattended," says Lindsey Griffin, Injury Prevention Specialist for Safe Kids Florence, led by McLeod Health. "Do not put candles on a tree or a natural wreath, or near curtains or drapes, and keep matches and lighters locked out of children's reach. If you would like decorative lighting, make sure it is labeled with the seal of an independent testing lab, and only use it outdoors if it's labeled for outdoor use."
If you decorate a tree, avoid these top decorating mistakes:
• Decorate with children in mind. Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them. Trim protruding branches at or below a child's eye level, and keep lights out of reach.
• Natural Christmas trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times. Do not put the tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent.
• Never leave a lit Christmas tree or other decorative lighting display unattended. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets.
• Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.
• Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.
Top tips to prevent poisoning this holiday season:
• Keep alcohol, including baking extracts, out of reach and do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended.
• Color additives used in fireplace fires are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach. Artificial snow can be harmful if inhaled, so use it in a well-vented space.
• Mistletoe Berries, Holly Berry and Jerusalem Cherry can be poisonous. If they are used in decorating, make sure children and pets cannot reach it.
• In a poison emergency, call the national Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.
For more information about holiday safety, call Safe Kids Florence, led by McLeod Health, at 843-777-5021 or visit www.safekids.org.
Safe Kids Florence works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14. Its members include Florence Country Sheriff's Department, City of Florence Police Department, South Carolina Highway Patrol, and the City of Florence Fire Department. Safe Kids Florence is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Florence was founded in 1995 and is led by McLeod Health and funded in part by the McLeod Health Foundation.