It's that time of year again! As you put up decorations and gather friends and family together to celebrate, keep these safety tips in mind.
Consejos de Seguridad Para Las Fiestas—Holiday Safety Tips in Spanish from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Keep matches, lighters, and candles out of the reach of children.
- Make a fire escape plan and practice it. Make sure every family member knows what to do.
- Avoid wearing flowing clothes, especially with long, open sleeves. They can catch fire near the stove, fireplace, or candles.
- Plan for safety. Use good sense, and be on the lookout for danger spots near candles, fireplaces, trees and electrical connections.
- Be aware of food safety guidelines, to avoid accidental food poisoning during the festivities.
- Place your tree a good distance away from any heat sources like fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
- If you purchase an artificial tree, make sure it's labeled “Fire Resistant.”
- Make sure your live tree is fresh. How to tell:
- A fresh tree is green.
- Fresh needles are hard to pull from branches.
- When bent between your fingers, needles do not break.
- The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin.
- When tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
- Cut about two 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.
- Make sure the stand has wide, spread feet for stability.
- Keep the stand full of water—it can dry up quickly in the dry, heated air.
- See Christmas Tree Fires, from the National Fire Protection Association for more on tree safety.
- Use only lights labeled as tested for safety by an independent testing laboratory.
- 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 (GFCI) 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.
- 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
- If your artificial tree is metallic, don't put lights on it; they'll create a fire hazard and risk of electrocution.
- Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
- Keep bubbling lights away from children. These lights, with their bright colors and bubbling movement, can tempt curious children to break the candle-shaped glass, which can cut, and try to drink the liquid, which contains a dangerous chemical.
- 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 candles away from other decorations and wrapping paper.
- Facts and figures about home candle fires.
- Candle safety tips.
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree.
- 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 avoid the child swallowing or choking on small pieces
- Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a young child to eat them.
- Wear gloves while decorating with spun glass “angel hair” to avoid irritation of skin and eyes.
- Choose tinsel or artificial icicles or plastic or non-leaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous to children.
- Artificial snow sprays can irritate the lungs if breathed in. To avoid injury, read container labels and follow directions carefully.
- 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.
- Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially outside each bedroom.
- Use a sturdy fireplace screen to prevent sparks from igniting newspapers, carpeting, curtains and upholstery.
- Only use the fireplace when you're home and awake. Extinguish the fire when you go out or at bedtime.
- Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations from fireplace area. Check to see that the flue is open.
- Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
- Do not burn wrapping papers or dry greenery in the fireplace. A flash fire and flying sparks may result as wrappings or dry greenery ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
- More fire safety tips on YourChild.
- Por El Bien De Los Niños Piense En La Seguridad Del Juguete—For Kids’ Sake Think Toy Safety, in Spanish, from the CPSC.
- It’s a good idea to check the CPSC’s toy recalls regularly. Make sure your child’s new toys have not been recalled.
- Follow recommended age ranges on toy packages. Toys that are too advanced could be a safety hazard for younger children.
- Before buying a toy or allowing your child to play with a toy that he or she has received as a gift, read the instructions carefully.
- To prevent both burns and electrical shocks, don't give young children (under age ten) a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy toys that are battery-operated.
- Be careful of holiday gift wrapping, such as bags, paper, ribbons and bows. These items can pose suffocation, strangulation and choking hazards to a small child.
- Children under age 4 can choke on small parts contained in toys or games and balls with a diameter of 1¼ inches or less.
- Children under age 8 can choke or suffocate on deflated or broken balloons.
- Watch for strings and straps that are more than 12 inches in length, for example on pull toys. They could be a strangulation hazard for babies and small children.
- For additional information on toy safety, read:
- Clean up immediately after a holiday party. A toddler could get up early and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco.
- Remember that the homes you visit may not be childproofed. Keep an eye out for danger spots.
- Keep a laminated list with all of the important phone numbers you or a baby-sitter are likely to need in case of an emergency. Include emergency numbers, your pediatrician and the Poison Help Line: 1-800-222-1222.
- Try to stick to your child’s usual routines, including sleep schedule and naps to reduce stress so your family can better enjoy the holidays.
Compiled by Kyla Boyse, RN.
Reviewed by faculty and staff at the University of Michigan.
Updated November 2012
U-M Health System Related Sites:
U-M C.S. Mott Children's Hospital
U-M Trauma Burn Center: Injury Prevention & Education