Holiday festivities can increase injury risks for children. Our tips can help you keep your child safe whether they’re sledding or watching fireworks. See our Safety Resources page for downloadable flyers on keeping children safe on Halloween, during winter and around fireworks.
Seasonal car safety
Hot weather: Never leave your child in a car during warm weather. The temperature can rapidly rise to a life-threatening level.
Cold weather: Remove your child’s bulky coat or jacket before buckling him or her into a car seat.
- Make sure your child’s costume is bright and fire-resistant. Put reflective tape on darker costumes.
- Make sure the costume is not a tripping hazard.
- Avoid sharp accessories.
- Make sure the costume is big enough for warm clothes underneath.
- Make sure face paint or makeup labels say “Made with U.S.-approved colored additives,” “Laboratory tested,” “Non-toxic” or “Meets federal standards for cosmetics.”
- Younger children are better off without masks. If your child uses one, make sure it doesn’t obstruct vision or breathing.
- Your preteen child should have adult supervision.
- Carry a flashlight. Consider having your child carry a flashlight or glow stick.
- Give your child a bright bag.
- Teach your child to be careful crossing streets. See our Car and Street Safety page for tips.
- Trick-or-treat in familiar neighborhoods and at homes of people you know.
- Don’t let your teenager go alone. Get the route she and friends are taking, set a curfew and make sure she has a cellphone.
- Tell your child not to eat treats until you can check them.
- Throw away candy with loose or open wrappers.
- Wash fruit and cut it into pieces to check it.
- Call police if treats have been tampered with.
- Make sure the front of your home is well-lit.
- Clear steps and lawns of tripping hazards.
- If your neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks, park your cars where they won’t block drivers from seeing trick-or-treaters.
Most home fireworks injuries are caused by improper use, short fuses, defective products, relighting, erratic flight and drinking. Find out what fireworks are allowed in your areas. And although Oregon law allows sparklers, children shouldn’t play with them. They can reach 1,500 degrees.
- Don’t leave your child unattended around fireworks. Keep fireworks locked up until you use them.
- Don’t let your child light fireworks.
- Keep your child at a safe distance.
- Don’t allow horseplay.
- Read all fireworks instructions carefully.
- Never light fireworks after drinking alcohol.
- Don’t light fireworks in a container.
- Keep a garden hose or bucket of water nearby.
- Don’t re-light fireworks that don’t go off. Soak them and throw them away.
- Light fireworks only outside.
- Keep flammable liquids at a safe distance.
- Soak all spent fireworks and dispose of them where they won’t start a fire.
Winter holiday safety
Don’t lose sight of safety during the busy winter holidays.
Holiday decoration safety
Keep small ornaments, tinsel, figurines and other potentially risky decorations out of young children’s reach. Here are other ways you can keep your family safe:
- Use only lights and cords approved by UL (formerly Underwriters Laboratories).
- Check lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections or broken sockets.
- Don’t overload extension cords. Use no more than three strings of lights on one cord.
- Don’t run electrical cords under a carpet.
- Secure electrical cords so your child can’t pull on them and topple the tree.
- Turn off the lights when you’re not around, especially when you go to bed.
- If you prefer natural trees, buy only fresh ones. They’re less likely to catch fire.
- Keep your tree in a basin of water and check it daily. Cover the basin with a tree skirt or blanket.
- Use a wide stand so the tree won’t fall over.
- Keep the tree away from heat sources – even heating vents.
- Cut back the lower branches so small children don’t poke their eyes.
- Don’t put ornaments that are breakable, have small detachable parts or metal hooks where a small child could reach them. Also avoid ornaments that look like food or candy.
- Hang lights out of a small child’s reach.
- Don’t burn tree branches or wrapping paper in your fireplace.
- Get rid of your tree right after the holidays.
Avoid using candles if you can. If you use them, take these precautions:
- Put candles in stable holders. Put them where they can’t be knocked over.
- Don’t leave lit candles unattended.
- Don’t put candles on your Christmas tree.
- Don’t put candles near drapes or anything else that might catch fire.
- Keep candles, matches and lighters out of your child’s reach.
- Teach your child not to touch candles, matches and lighters.
- Keep poisonous plants out of reach:
- Watch for holly and mistletoe berries that fall on the floor; they’re poisonous if eaten.
- Other poisonous holiday plants include: amaryllis, azalea, boxwood, Christmas rose, crown of thorns, English ivy and Jerusalem cherry.
- Poinsettias are not poisonous but can cause skin irritation and digestive distress.
- Avoid artificial snow sprays. They can cause lung irritation.
- Keep your child away from salts that make colored flames in fireplaces. Their heavy metals cause intense digestive irritation or vomiting if eaten.
Holiday food and drink safety
- Keep round, hard foods such as candy cane pieces, mints, nuts and popcorn out of your young child’s reach.
- Don’t let your child have access to alcohol. Don’t leave drinks unattended, including spiked beverages such as eggnog.
- Keep vanilla and almond extracts out of reach. They have high alcohol content.
Cold weather increases the risk of home fires. You can take some basic steps to help keep your family safe:
- Create a fire emergency plan. Make the escape routes as short as possible. Decide who will get the children.
- Keep chain or rope ladders near upstairs windows.
- Practice fire drills with the family and baby sitters.
- Teach your child what a smoke alarm sounds like.
- Teach your child how to react:
- Leave a burning house by staying low and feeling a door before entering a room.
- Cover the mouth and nose. A wet towel is best, but a T-shirt or any cloth can protect lungs from dangerous fumes.
- Never to go back into a burning house.
- Stop, drop and roll if clothes catch fire.
Cold weather safety
Children are at greater risk of frostbite and frostnip because they lose heat from their skin faster. They also may ignore how cold they are to keep having fun.
How to identify frostbite
What it is: Frostbite, which can cause permanent tissue damage, can happen when temperatures are below freezing. Wind and humidity can speed the onset.
Early frostbite signs: Waxy, white and hard skin that feels numb and has a persistent burning sensation.
Severe frostbite signs: Blue, mottled or splotchy skin.
How to identify frostnip
What it is: Frostnip is an early, usually temporary, form of frostbite. It usually affects the ears, nose, cheeks, fingers and toes.
Frostnip signs: White skin that’s numb.
How to prevent frostbite and frostnip
- Don’t let your child go outside in very cold weather after a bath or shower.
- Dress your child in warm, layered clothes that aren’t so tight they slow circulation:
- Layer 1: Clothes that keep moisture away from the skin. Thermal underwear, moisture-reducing winter sportswear, cotton socks and mitten and glove liners are good choices.
- Layer 2: Loose clothes that resist dampness and maintain body temperature. Heavy pants, sweaters and sweatshirts are good.
- Layer 3: Tightly woven, moisture-resistant outerwear that includes coats, jackets, hats, scarves, gloves, mittens and boots.
- Bring your child in regularly and check fingers and nose for signs of frostnip and frostbite.
- Make sure your child is dry. Wet clothes can increase heat loss.
- If you’re away from home, take extra clothes for your child.
How to treat frostbite and frostnip
Severe frostbite needs immediate medical attention. If you think your child has frostbite, remove cold, wet clothes. Dress your child in loose, warm and dry clothes and go to the hospital.
You should not:
- Rub or bump the frostbitten area.
- Use a heating pad or hair dryer to warm the area.
- Pop blisters. That can cause infection.
If you can’t get your child to a hospital right away, begin first aid:
- Give your child something warm to drink.
- Keep your child warm with clothes and blankets.
- Soak the frostbitten area in water from 101 to 104 degrees until the skin becomes pink.
- If your child’s face is frostbitten, use a soft washcloth. Soak the cloth in warm water and wring it out.
- After the skin turns pink, dry it gently but thoroughly and wrap it in gauze bandages.
- If the toes or fingers are frostbitten, put gauze bandages or cotton balls between them.
- Your child may have a burning sensation after warming. The affected skin may blister, swell, become painful or turn blue, red or purple.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Avoid further exposure to the cold.
- Get your child indoors.
- Remove wet clothes.
- Submerge frostnipped areas in water from 101 to 104 degrees. Don’t let your child control the temperature of the water.
- Keep frostnipped areas in water until they turn pink or red.
- Watch young children when they sled.
- Teach your child to roll off a sled that won’t stop. Tell the child not to worry about what happens to the sled.
- Make sure your child wears a helmet.
- Make sure your child is dressed warmly and has heavy gloves and boots. Bring your child indoors to warm up and change clothes if he or she gets wet.
- Avoid hills with more than a 30-degree slope, drop-offs, rocky hills, a street, driveways, icy surfaces and areas with trees, walls or cars.
- Don’t let your child sled after dark or in poorly lit areas.
- Don’t let your child on a sled being pulled behind a vehicle.
- Don’t let your child ride into a snow bank, which may have hidden dangers.
- A steerable wooden sled with flexible metal runners is recommended for ages 6 to 12.
- Inner tubes, saucers and snow disks are not recommended because they’re fast and can’t be steered.
- Check the sled often to make sure it’s in good condition.
- Teach your child to tell you if he or she has an accident.
Location and hours
The Tom Sargent Safety Resource Center is in Doernbecher's main lobby.
Doernbecher Children’s Hospital
700 S.W. Campus Drive
Portland, OR 97239
Map and directions
Hours: 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays or by appointment.
Visit our Safety Resources page to find brochures you can download and links to safety products in our nonprofit store.