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Holiday safety tips from the Oregon Poison Center

Keep children, pets safe this holiday season


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Mistletoe leaves and berries are poisonous if swallowed.Holiday celebrations are coming up, with children home from school and visiting family and friends. During the excitement, remember to keep your family safe from holiday-specific risks. The Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center at Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and the Oregon Poison Center suggest following these 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.

    Guard poisonous plants, décor and medications

  • 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.

  • Be cautious with lamp oil and place it out of reach of young children.

  • Balsam, juniper, cedar, pine and fir branches can irritate the skin or mouth when touched or swallowed.

  • Be sure all medications have child safety caps and are kept out of reach of children; remind holiday visitors to take this precaution as well.

    Practice toy safety

  • Select toys that match a child’s age, abilities, skills and interest level.

  • Take the “tube test” with toys. If a toy or any of its parts can fit through a paper towel cylinder, it is too small for a child younger than 3 years old.

  • 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 handle and store food

  • Wash hands before and after handling raw food and meats to minimize your chance of contamination from bacteria.

  • Promptly refrigerate dips, eggs, cheeses and meats.

  • Be sure that all holiday drinks containing alcohol are not within reach of children.

    For more information, call the Oregon Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.