Keeping your family safe in the bustling holiday season
12/9/2021 by Paige Partain, M.D.
The glitter, magic, gifts and celebrations of the holidays fill children with excitement and wonder. But the season also comes with risks.
Check out these tips to ensure your holidays are memorable, safe and healthy:
Trees and decorations
- If you have a real holiday tree, be sure the stand is always filled with water so it doesn't dry out and pose a fire hazard. If you have an artificial tree, it should be made from fire-retardant material. Tree stands should rest flat on the ground. Decorate the tree to equally distribute weight.
- If children are helping you decorate, watch them closely, especially when handling lighting, ornaments and breakable objects. Any decorations small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube can obstruct a small child's airway. Keep these ornaments higher on the tree so they are out of the reach of small hands.
- Holly berries, poinsettias and mistletoe are poisonous when eaten. Keep them away from kids and pets.
Lights and candles
- Buy decorative lights with the UL mark, which certifies they've been tested to meet safety requirements.
- Use power strips with built-in circuit breakers. Avoid putting too many plugs into one electrical outlet. Keep cords out of the way or behind furniture, and insert outlet covers into any unused outlets.
- Kids and fire don't mix. Don't leave them alone in a room with lighted candles, matches, lighters, traditional or gas fireplaces, or any other flame or heat source.
Toys and games
- Choose age-appropriate toys and games. Be aware of hazardous toys. World Against Toys Causing Harm, a nonprofit organization, provides information on the newest toys that might be dangerous for children. Their 2021 "10 Worst Toys" list also includes several tips about toys in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Batteries shaped like disks, also known as button batteries, are tempting to small children. Check that batteries can't be easily removed. If you're worried your child may have eaten a button battery, seek immediate medical attention.
- For younger kids, watch out for strings, long handles and small parts that can be removed. For older kids, be sure the parent controls are enabled for internet-capable devices and avoid projectiles such as guns or dart guns.
- Dress kids for the weather, making sure their hands, feet and heads are covered.
- Encourage them to wear the correct safety gear for sledding, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and other outdoor activities. Parents need to wear safety gear, too.
- Follow safe sleep recommendations. Don't pile on extra blankets in the crib. Avoid pajamas with strings, and be sure footie bottoms of a child's pajamas are nonskid.
Holidays, health and travel
No one wants to get sick or end up in quarantine over the holidays.
Keep the whole family healthy:
- Vaccinate all eligible family members for COVID-19. This is especially important if you'll be with children or infants who can't be vaccinated yet due to age. Complete your booster vaccination as soon as possible.
- Avoid unnecessary travel if you are sick. Be tested for COVID-19 if you become sick before necessary travel. When traveling, wear a well-fitting mask in public. Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more tips specific to travel in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In addition to getting vaccinated for COVID-19, get vaccinated for flu, too.
- Follow medication schedules and routines. Children should take their medications as prescribed by their health care provider, unless your provider recommends a medication holiday.
- If traveling by car, don't buckle kids in while wearing winter coats. Instead, cover them with blankets and coats over the seat belt.
Paige Partain, M.D., is a pediatrician in Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson's Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. She practices at Mayo Family Clinic Northeast in Rochester. Her areas of interest include preventive medicine and pediatric behavioral health, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, anxiety and eating disorders.