Community Health Watch: Holiday Safety Tips

EMSWorld now offers Community Health Watch articles for use by your EMS agency. These short, pre-written, easy to use articles are intended to be educational for your local community members on a wide range of public safety and health issues, and may be branded for your use. Your organization is free to use this as a community column in your local newspaper, a letter to the editor, a press release or in any other way you see fit. Either copy the text below or download the attached Word document.

The holidays can be an exciting time of year. But amidst all the merriment—food, drink, presents and parties—it’s important to remember to be safe. All the holiday cheer in the world can’t make up for one mistake. Here are some things to watch for so your holiday can be a safe and happy one.

Trees

When purchasing an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled “Fire Resistant.” When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Be sure to keep the stand filled with water, because heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly.

Lights

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. 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. 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.

Decorations

Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. 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 over. In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a young child to eat them. Remove all wrapping papers, bags, paper, 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.

Toy Safety

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. Children under age three can choke on small parts contained in toys or games. 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 health care provider immediately if your child swallows one. Remove strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children.

Information courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics, www.aap.org.

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