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warning choking hazard holiday decorating safety

The 4 Most Dangerous Mistakes Parents Make With Holiday Decor

For many of us, the Thanksgiving Day table is barely cleared before we rush out the door to get our Christmas tree and holiday decorations. The beautiful lights, the smell of the Christmas tree, and the adorable decorations bring us warmth and happiness. But WARNING: a choking hazard may lurk around every corner this time of year. So before preparing the eggnog and putting on the Christmas carols, it is important to go over some important holiday decorating safety precautions.

4 Dangers of Holiday Decorating

Unfortunately, holiday decorations can pose serious safety risks to infants and toddlers (and furbabies too!). The blinking lights and shining ornaments can tempt curious minds of little ones. In the ER, I treat many injuries and burns from holiday decorations this time of year.

So let’s go over some simple safety tips and alternatives to the dangers of holiday decor.

1. Christmas Tree ‘O Christmas Tree

Christmas trees serve as a huge safety risk for infants and toddlers. We see serious crush injuries and even fatalities associated with Christmas trees falling onto small children.

Remember these quick tips:

  1. When decorating your Christmas tree, avoid placing ornaments or lights around the bottom of the tree.
  2. When purchasing your Christmas tree, have the staff cut off the bottom branches as it will significantly decrease the chance of your infant pulling on the branches.
  3. Try to avoid glass ornaments altogether as this will eliminate the chance of your child getting cut. The small particles of a broken ornament can easily get stuck in the hands and feet of crawling infants. Plastic ornaments are an easy and safe alternative, but WARNING: choking hazard…be sure they are large enough to prevent a choking!
  4. If you already own glass decorations, I suggest placing them higher up on the tree and saving the more child friendly ornaments for the bottom.
  5. If you have an adventurous toddler, I highly suggest placing a safety gate around the tree.

2. Let it Snow

I do not recommend spray-on snow. There are many dangerous chemicals such as acetone and methylene chloride (a probable carcinogen), which you can inhale while spraying the snow. If a small child comes in contact with the bottle, it can lead to dangerous ingestion.

A safer alternative is cotton.

Placing cotton around mantels and Christmas displays gives it an extra touch of winter bliss without any safety risk.

3. The Festival of Lights

Please make sure to secure all cords when decorating your home with lights. The loose wires can lead to crush injuries or electrocution, as infants may pull and chew on the cords. There is also a risk of serious limb injuries or strangulation if an infant gets tangled in the cords.

Before plugging in your lights, inspect your cord for frayed wire or gaps in the insulation. If you find any problems, just throw them away. If you use candles, place them out of the reach of small children.

For those celebrating Hanukkah, keep your menorah in a safe place out of the reach of children. We treat many preventable burns during the holiday seasons.

A battery operated flame is a safer alternative.

They are so easy to use and produce the same effect with no safety risk for your children.

4. Miniature Decor (WARNING: Choking Hazard!)

When decorating mantels and tables, keep in mind that little ones explore with their mouths. If the pieces to your winter wonderland are a choking hazard, place them in out-of-reach area.

If you have older siblings in the house, explain the dangers of giving younger sibling small figurines or lifting them up to see the display.

BONUS: Hidden Dangers for Your Pets

Keep your furbabies happy and healthy this holiday season too by avoiding these common emergency vet situations:

  • Holly, mistletoe, poinsettias, and lilies are poisonous for pets.
  • Ribbons, yarn, and string can cause intestinal blockage resulting in the need for surgery or even death.
  • Adhesives, glues, and oil-based potpourri can be toxic.
  • Candles can be knocked down causing fires and burns.
  • Tree needles can be toxic and cause mouth and stomach irritation.
  • Tinsel, when ingested, can block the intestines.
  • Angel hair, flocking, and artificial snow are mildly toxic to pets.
  • Electrical cords can cause problems ranging from burned mouths to electrical shock or death by electrocution. Larger lights can become hot and can also cause burns.
  • Ornaments can result in life-threatening emergencies when ingested. Shards from broken glass can cause serious injuries to paws, mouths, and other parts of the body.
  • Holiday tree water may contain toxic fertilizers and can harbor bacteria.

Final Thoughts on Holiday Decorating Safety

Now that you are equipped with all you need to know to keep your little ones safe during your holiday preparation, enjoy that eggnog and turn up the Barbra Streisand Christmas soundtrack. Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Happy decorating!

~Dr. Katie

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