I think every pediatrician can tell you horror stories about bad things that happened to great families during the chaos of the holiday season. It is my job to help make sure that your family is as safe as possible.
The Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital has a list of Holiday Safety Tips that I think every family should review. I want to take a minute to highlight a couple of key things that sometimes get overlooked.
One of the best parts of the holidays is that families get together — OK, usually this is a good thing. If you will be visiting relatives, you will need to be sure that the home is a safe as possible for your kids. You have spent a lot of time safety-proofing your own homes, and we sometimes take for granted that others homes will be just as safe.
- Choking Risks: Curious kids often lead with their hands and want to touch and explore everything they can find. First, apply the TubeTest. Anything they can get their hands on should not be small enough to fit inside of a toilet paper tube. If it fits, get it up and out of harm’s way!
- Household Hazards: Crawl around in the rooms where they will be, and see what you can get your hands on. I use the 10-Second Rule to help me think about whether or not something might be safe for a toddler. If you would trust your child alone with something for 10 seconds or longer, then it might be OK. If you think it could cause injury in 10 seconds, then get it out of there. Think especially about poisons, cleaning supplies, medications and sharp things. The home you’re visiting may not have cabinet or drawer locks, so double -heck what your kids could get into.
- Hot Foods and Liquids: With a bunch of people milling about, sometimes kids slip through the cracks. During holiday celebrations, there tends to be tons of hot food and liquids sitting on tablecloths or placemats, or hot things with electrical cords, like crock pots and coffee makers. I have seen horrible burns from a child pulling a coffee maker off a placemat with a soupbowl on it. Be aware of where the kids are and where the hot stuff is because they usually do not mix well!
- Strangers With Medicine: If you are visiting, or have visitors, they may have medications that you might not be aware of. Ask about storage of these in guest bathrooms and bedrooms so you can be certain that your little ones cannot get into something that they should not. One thing that may make your life easier is knowing that the number for the poison center nearest you will always be the same”
Poison Center: 1-800-222-1222, from Dubuque to Pittsburgh to Pensacola or Yuma.
- Young Kids and Fire: Candles, lamps and fireplaces put kids at risk of burns. Keep candles away from kids — they are a constant source of fascination, but not a good mix. Oil lamps look great, but the oil may be confused for juice and consumed by young children, which can cause severe respiratory problems — be sure to store the oil well out of reach. We all love to curl up by the fireplace on a cold day, and it makes sense to keep our hands out of the flames. However, remember that fireplace screens and glass fireplace doors can get really hot (more than 1,000 degrees!). You may need to put up child gates or otherwise blockade the fireplace to prevent curious little ones from getting hurt.
The bottom line is that with a little forethought and preparation, you can insure that everyone has a safe and healthy holiday season. We at the Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center wish you the best and hope that if you have any questions or needs for safety equipment, that you will give us a call at 503-418-5666.
Ben Hoffman, M.D.
Medical Director, OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital