Friday, November 27, 2020

Holiday Safety Checklist 2020

The day after Thanksgiving is typically when people start thinking about the upcoming Holiday season. Flip through some radio stations and you are sure to find seasonal songs playing already. According to a news story that I was watching this week, people are actually starting to decorate for the holidays even earlier than usual because, well…..we need to be cheered up after this horrible year. Early tree sales are soaring. Over the years I have continued to update my holiday safety post. Whenever I think I have seen it all, strange accidents and events come to my attention and get added to the list. This year aside from warnings about candles, trees and lights the biggest safety issue is a sad one.....Stay away from people who are not in your quarantine bubble. I know that there are probably a number of you who are relieved that you have an excuse to avoid the large family gathering, but for others it is heartbreaking to be away from larger, traditional gatherings. The COVID numbers are frightening. Just a few weeks ago, things looked like they were improving. Alana and I gleefully got our first pedicures in more than 8 months. Now? Looking at the uptick in cases, I wouldn’t have taken the chance. Back in June I did a post that addressed the risk/benefit for easing out of the restrictions. Your health and the health of your family are simply more important than a holiday gathering. I fear that many people ignored all the warnings and gathered for Thanksgiving this week. I hope I am wrong, but if I am not, we can expect even a bigger increase in cases as well as a strain on the hospital systems in the coming weeks. If that is the case, I would be really nervous about going anywhere! Go ahead and decorate your house (safely) Make your wonderful meals and create a magical atmosphere in your home, but please please make smart choices when it comes to leaving the safety of your bubble. Holiday Safety Checklist Have you thought of everything? The lights are twinkling and the radios are playing the holiday tunes. People are putting up the holiday decorations. It is time for the holiday safety post. Take a moment to give this a careful read. There may be some things that hadn't occurred to you. For most people, the holidays are a time for celebration. That means more cooking, home decorating, entertaining, and an increased risk of fire and accidents. 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. I have seen some wild and improbable things over the years. 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 hazard. It was a winter evening many 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 go to sleep with candles or a fireplace still burning. Get acquainted with the safety features of any place your family is staying. Below are some safety considerations 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 I am betting you haven't thought about. Beware of 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. WARNING TO PET OWNERS! One of my patients had a tragedy several years ago. An eight year old healthy dog got into a wrapped package that was filled with chocolate. The amount ingested proved to be too toxic for this little dog to handle and they didn't make it. Please don't let this happen to you. Make sure that any mystery packages are nowhere near where a pet can get to them. 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. Don’t add chemicals that might be toxic to kids or pets. A dash of plain 7 up can help keep the tree healthy. 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. You may need to attach it to something solid. Trust me, trees get knocked or pulled over. Older kids running around can cause this issue, it isn’t just toddlers. 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 the 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; make sure that your extension cords are high quality. If you are going to use your fireplace, make sure that you have the chimney checked and cleaned if it has been awhile since you built your last fire. (make sure that it isn’t a spare the air day) This is not a safety issue, but it is worth mentioning. Is your child exhibiting any new allergy symptoms? Take a minute to consider whether or not they started during the holiday season. Trees, scented candles and other seasonal extras can trigger some allergies. Hanukkah doesn’t fall on the same date every year since it is based on a lunar calendar. Many folks laughingly refer to it as coming either “early or late”. It also has more spelling variations than any other holiday. This season the first candle will be lit on the evening of Thursday December 10th. Make sure that all candles are safely out of harm's way. The menorah should be on a glass tray or aluminum foil. 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 (fried potato pancakes that are a holiday tradition, yum) make sure that no one gets splattered by oil and of course, never leave the hot oil unattended  Remember that adding water to a grease fire will make it worse! Baking soda is okay, but a fire extinguisher is best. Make sure you know where it is and how to use it. 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. If I missed any holidays, let me know! I will add them to this post in the future. This is also a great time to test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors!!! Stay safe and have a wonderful holiday season.

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