Wishing you a happy, healthy and safe holiday for your kids!
12/5/2019 by Paige Partain, MD
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 for ensuring your holidays are not only memorable, but also safe and healthy.
Trees and decorations
- If you have a real 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.
- Children helping you decorate? Closely watch them, 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.
- 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, fireplaces or any other flame or heat source.
Toys and games
- Choose age-appropriate toys and games. To avoid especially hazardous toys, check out the 2019 list of the 10 worst toys complied by World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.). The organization also provides general safety tips for toys.
- Batteries shaped like disks (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.
Outdoor fun and travel
- 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 and avoid pajamas with strings. For those cute footie PJs? Be sure the footie bottoms are non-skid.
- If traveling by car, don't buckle kids in while wearing winter coats, instead, cover them with blankets and coats over the seat belt.
Holidays and health
No one wants to get sick or end up at urgent care over the holidays. Keep the whole family healthy by:
- Getting a flu shot! This is especially important if you'll be with elderly relatives or infants who can't be immunized.
- Following medication schedules/routines. Children should take their medications as prescribed by their health care provider, unless your provider recommends a medication holiday.
Dr. Paige Partain is a general pediatrician in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM) and practices at Mayo Family Clinic Northeast in Rochester. Her areas of interest include preventive medicine and pediatric behavioral health, including ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), depression, anxiety and eating disorders.