The Harris County Hospital District reminds everyone that while the holidays are a time for celebration, they can turn into unexpected visits to hospitals for injuries sustained from holiday-related activities. Each year, about 10,000 holiday-related injuries come into emergency centers nationwide.
Dr. Angela Fisher, medical director, Emergency Center, Ben Taub General Hospital, and associate chief for operations, Emergency Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, said cases involving injuries sustained from falls, cuts, choking, electrocutions and fires are common during this time of year.
“These injuries can be pretty devastating,” she says. “The holidays are a time that you want to spend with your family and friends, and with a little common sense and a bit of safety in mind, you can really make this an enjoyable and safe time.”
Here are recommendations for holiday safety:
• Check all tree lights — even if you've just purchased them — before hanging them on your tree. Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
• Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
• Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use. To hold lights in place, string them through hooks or insulated staples, not nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them.
• Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
• Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
• Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards for younger children.
• Before buying a toy or allowing your child to play with a toy that he has received as a gift, read the instructions carefully.
• To prevent both burns and electrical shocks, don’t give young children (under age 10) a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy toys that are battery operated.
• Children under age 3 can choke on small parts contained in toys or games. Government regulations specify that toys for children under age 3 cannot have parts less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.
• Children can have serious stomach and intestinal problems — including death — after swallowing button batteries and magnets. Keep them away from young children and call your healthcare provider immediately if your child swallows one.
• Children under age 8 can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Remove strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children.
• Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length. They could be a strangulation hazard for babies.
Children and Pets
• Poinsettias are known to be poisonous to humans and animals, so keep them well out of reach, or avoid having them.
• Keep decorations at least 6 inches above the child’s reach.
• Avoid using tinsel. It can fall on the floor and a curious child or pet may eat it. This can cause anything from mild distress to death.
• Keep any ribbons on gifts and tree ornaments shorter than 7 inches. A child could wrap a longer strand of ribbon around their neck and choke.
• Avoid mittens with strings for children. The string can get tangled around the child’s neck and cause them to choke. It is easier to replace a mitten than a child.
• Watch children and pets around space heaters or the fireplace. Do not leave a child or pet unattended.
• Store scissors and any sharp objects that you use to wrap presents out of your child’s reach.
• Inspect wrapped gifts for small decorations, such as candy canes, gingerbread men and mistletoe berries, all of which are choking hazards.
Decorations and Trees
• Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals.
• Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
• Keep breakable ornaments or items with small removable parts out of the reach of children to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling small pieces. Avoid decorations that resemble candy or food that may tempt a young child.
• Remove all wrapping papers, bags, ribbons and bows from tree and fireplace areas after gifts are opened. These items can pose suffocation and choking hazards to a small child or can cause a fire if near flame.
• When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
• Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will help to keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
• Be sure to keep the stand filled with water, because heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly.