While the holiday season may be the “most wonderful time of the year,” it is also a time when children can be at risk for unexpected injuries.
In 2012, more than 3200 children were seen in emergency rooms for injuries caused by non-electric Christmas decorations. An additional 500 children are treated for injuries related to toys every day. In the winter, carbon monoxide also becomes a bigger hazard due to more frequent use of fuel-powered devices.
“The holidays are a time when many families decorate their homes, travel to see family and friends, and eat lots of great food,” said Susan Katz, DNP, RN, NP, the Pediatric Injury Prevention Coordinator at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital in a statement. . “But with all these activities come some safety risks that we may not always think about. By reminding ourselves of a few small safety tips, the holidays can be safer and more fun for everyone.”
Dr Katz and colleagues from Stony Brook Children’s Hospital offered the following tips to advise to patients to keep them safe and happy during the holidays:
1. Beware of hazards that can make falls more likely. Falls are one of the most common reasons for hospital admission for all ages year-round, Dr Katz told Clinical Pain Advisor. . For those expecting older adult visitors, she suggests “elder-proofing” homes to avoid injuries that may result from being in an unfamiliar environment. Suggest that patients make sure their homes are well lit and use night lights in the bathroom and bedrooms. Make sure there are handrails in tricky spots, and limit alcohol intake. Also beware of pets; young children and their toys; slippery floors from spills; or wet entry ways. For children, beware of horsing around with siblings and relatives. Have them wear non-skid socks to prevent slipping and sliding down stairs.
2. Decorate the tree with children in mind. Children are curious and will want to examine and play with the ornaments. Suggest that parents put ornaments that are breakable or that have metal hooks at the top of the tree, and put safer ornaments near the bottom.
3. Beware of fire hazards. According to Dr Katz, fires are another common holiday problem that many people don’t consider. Don’t overload sockets or use damaged cords. Also use caution if you have a live tree, and use fake candles whenever possible.
4. Make sure that children’s toys are age appropriate. Also be sure to check for small pieces that could pose choking hazards.
5. Beware of small batteries that can lead to choking. As electronic toys and devices get smaller and sleeker, the number of serious injuries or deaths from button batteries has increased 9-fold in the last 10 years. Every year in the United States, more than 2800 children are treated in emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries. Advise parents to keep button batteries and other small objects away from young children, as the first thing they’ll do when exploring is put them in their mouths.
6. Use caution and keep a close eye on children to prevent burns. Remind patients to keep children away from fireplaces and even from enclosures meant to keep children away from fires, as these can heat up and burn hands if touched. Keep matches, lighters, and candles out of reach of children and away from the tree, and don’t forget to blow candles out when you leave a room or go to sleep. Also beware of hot drinks and soups: keep these out of reach of children, and don’t hold a child while carrying or eating a hot food or drink. Children should only be permitted to use a microwave if they are tall enough to safely remove the item and are old enough to understand that that hot liquids and steam can burn like fire.
7. Double check your car seats. Because 73% of car seats are not used or installed correctly, Dr Katz suggests using the Safe Kids’ car seat checklist2 and giving car seats a 2nd check before driving. Also remind patients that bulky winter clothes and coats can keep a car seat from doing its job, so if it’s cold outside, cover babies and young children with a thick blanket after they’re securely strapped in. “Use appropriate car seats and seat belts every ride, the entire ride!” Dr Katz said.
8. Be cautious when out of your normal environment. If you’re traveling, the safety procedures that you practice at home may not be the same in other places, so take steps to childproof the area. If there is open water in the yard, make sure doors have alarms so you know if a child got outside. Know where medications and poisons are stored, and be sure your children can’t access them. Make sure cabinets with poisons are locked, and think about what might be in others’ purses and if your children can reach them. Also make sure that stairs are blocked, and do not rely solely on gates near stairs. And remember: nothing takes the place of supervision.
1. Holiday Safety: Santa is Checking His List, Parents Are You Checking Yours Twice? Newswise. http://newswise.com/articles/view/644978/. Accessed December 23, 2015.
2. Car Seat Checkup: Top 5 Things To Do. safekids.org http://www.safekids.org/sites/default/files/documents/car_seat_checklist_for_parents_skw-gm.pdf. Accessed December 23, 2015.