Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday Safety Tips

Next week the winter holidays begin. For most people, holidays are a time for celebration. That means more cooking, home decorating, entertaining, and an increased risk of fire and accidents.

Call me a Debbie Downer if you must, but the mind of an advice nurse is a skewed one. For every aspect of holiday celebrations, I can tell you the story of a patient who called with a related accident. It is not my intent to scare folks with my tales. As I tell parents who attend my safety class, if you know ahead of time what accidents can happen, you have a way better chance of avoiding them.

Baking cookies is just one example. A patient's mom called to tell me that her 10 month old had sustained a burn on his hand. She was holding him in the crook of one arm as she removed the cookie sheets  from the oven. As she recounted, he turned into a cartoon character with a telescoping reach and he was able to stretch across her body and grab a hold of the piping hot tray. Simple solution: don't hold your child when you are working with hot stuff in the kitchen. Their arms are longer than you think. If even one accident has been prevented, this post was worth it.

Candles are another biggie. It was a winter evening several years ago in a cabin at Lake Tahoe. Dr Jessica and family lit some holiday candles and went to sleep. Somehow one of the candles ended up burning a hole through a plastic mat that was on the table. Luckily the smell of burning plastic woke them up before any real damage was done, but it was a frightening lesson. This was a vacation rental. In this instance there seemed to be no working smoke detector. She had no idea if and where there was a fire extinguisher. There are several obvious lessons here. Never to go to sleep leaving candles or a fireplace still burning. Get acquainted with the safety features of any place your family is staying.
     
Below are some safety checklists for dealing with the holiday season ahead. Some of these may seem like common sense but there might be a few tidbits in here that you haven't thought about.

For instance...button batteries. They are everywhere nowadays in all sorts of small electronics (and musical cards) and can be quite hazardous if swallowed. Take time in advance to do a mental inventory of items that you have around that may be powered by these. Put a piece of duct tape over the battery compartments to make sure they can't fall out.

Certain holiday plants like poinsettias can be mildly toxic (especially to someone with a latex allergy). You may not have them in your own house, but if you are  visiting a friend or even a supermarket make sure little hands don't grab the pretty red leaves and put them in their mouths.

Be very careful transporting hot food to a holiday potluck. I have patients who have been burned from hot food spilling on them in a car.

Since Chanukah comes first this year:
   *Make sure that all candles are safely out of harms way
   *Make sure candles are not close to wrapping paper
   *Don't go to sleep with candles still burning
   *Don't leave the matches or lighters hanging around
   *If you are frying latkes make sure that no one gets spattered by oil

Christmas tree checklist:
*When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is less of a fire hazard
*Cut 1-2 inches from the base of the trunk immediately before placing the tree in the stand and filling with water to ensure absorption
*check the water level daily to avoid the tree drying out
*When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant"
*Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted
*Place your tree at least 3 feet away from all heat sources, including fireplaces, radiators and space heaters
*Make sure the tree is steady enough that it can't be pulled over by a toddler
*Trim your tree with non-combustible or flame resistant materials
*Before using lights outdoors, check labels to make sure they have been certified for outdoor use
*Make sure all bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections
*Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground-fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
*Strings of lights and garlands are a staple of holiday decorating, but they can also pose a strangulation hazard.
*Avoid trimming the tree with things that look like candy which may pose a temptation to the kids.
*Keep sharp, glass or breakable ornaments out of reach of small children
*Holly berries and other small decorations can be choking hazards
*Don't overload extension cords

Kwanzaa may be the safest of the holidays, (no hot oil or stressing the electrical outlets)  but there are still candles involved, so make sure they are placed in a safe place and toddlers don't have access.

This is a great time to test your smoke alarms!!!

Stay safe and Have Happy Holidays!
Check out this post from last year: The best present is your presence



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