OHSU

Holiday safety tips from OHSU Doernbecher and the Oregon Poison Center

12/15/11  Portland, Ore.

The holidays hold not only special meaning; they hold special risks. To ensure a happy and safe holiday season for you and your family, the Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU offer the following helpful tips:

Handle decorations and lights with care

  • Delicate glass ornaments can break and lead to injuries. Place them high on the tree, away from small children.
  • Holiday lights can pose an electrical risk. Check all wires for fraying, and be sure all lights work.
  • Turn off all lights at bedtime and when no one is home.

Avoid fire hazards

  • Keep matches out of sight and reach of children.
  • Don’t leave burning candles unattended.
  • Don’t burn wrapping paper or evergreens in the fireplace.
  • 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.
  • Be sure smoke detectors are working; check the batteries!

Keep poisonous plants, décor and gifts away from children and pets

  • Mistletoe leaves and berries are poisonous if swallowed. Amaryllis also can be poisonous. Poinsettias aren’t poisonous, but can irritate the skin and stomach if handled or swallowed.
  • Bubble lights contain a liquid called methylene chloride, which is toxic if swallowed.
  • Some artificial snow sprays are toxic. Avoid inhaling fumes, and exposing eyes or skin.
  • Lamp oil can look like juice to children, and can be very dangerous!
  • Balsam, juniper, cedar, pine and fir branches can irritate the skin or mouth when touched or swallowed.

Practice Toy Safety

  • Select toys that match a child's age, abilities, skills and interest level. Children younger than 3 can choke on small parts contained in toys or games.
  • Remove strings and ribbons from toys and watch for pull toys with strings more than 12 inches in length; they pose a strangulation hazard for babies.
  • Button batteries are small, and can be extremely dangerous if swallowed. Avoid toys that do not have a screw to keep the batteries in place.
  • Small magnets can cause severe abdominal problems if swallowed. Avoid having them around if you have young children.
  • Store toys in a designated location, such as on a shelf or in a toy chest, and keep older kids’ toys out of reach.

Properly store food and medications

  • Holidays means visits from family and friends, young and old. Be sure medication has child safety caps and is kept out of reach of children
  • Wash hands after handling raw food; promptly refrigerate dips, eggs, cheeses and meats.

About the OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center

The OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center is dedicated to reducing unintentional injuries in children through education and distribution of safety products. For more information, please call 503 418-5666. If you suspect your child has been poisoned, call the Oregon Poison Center immediately. The toll-free number is 1 800-222-1222. For more information about the poison center, visit www.ohsu.edu/poison/index.htm.

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Tamara Hargens-Bradley
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