Get in the Holiday Spirit…Safely

Get in the Holiday Spirit… Safely

The season brings with it dangers for our kids
By Erin Albertini, MD/MPH Candidate With Julie Belkowitz, MD, MPH, Lyse Deus, and Oneith Cadiz, MD, Courtesy of

While the holidays are undeniably joyful, decorations and gifts can potentially cause injuries to children if they are not checked for safety and set up correctly. As you are decking the halls, wrapping gifts and preparing for this holiday season, here are some tips for keeping your family safe:

Christmas Trees and Decorations 
When you are setting up your Christmas tree this year, make sure to keep it away from heat sources like fireplaces, ovens, stoves and heaters to prevent it from catching on fire. It is also important to set up your tree away from doors and walkways so that no one trips and the tree is not knocked over.

If you are buying a live tree, make sure it is fresh or it can become a fire hazard. You can tell if your tree is fresh if the needles are green (not dried out), are hard to pull off, and do not break in half easily; and the bottom of the tree feels sticky. If you are choosing an artificial tree, make sure it is labeled as fire resistant.

For decorations:

  • Make sure they are labeled as fire resistant.
  • Avoid sharp or breakable decorations.
  • Avoid decorations with small pieces.
  • Avoid decorations that look like food that kids may put in their mouths.

Lights & Candles
Holiday lights can be a major source of fires if they are not checked for safety. Before you put up any strings of lights this year, make sure all the bulbs are working, none of the wires are broken or exposed and the sockets are not broken. And don’t plug more than 3 strands of lights into one socket or extension cord. Turn off or unplug all of your lights when you leave the house.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, every December, half of fires related to decorations are started by candles. Electric or other artificial candles are the safest. For real candles, do the following:

  • Keep candles 12 inches away from other objects, especially Christmas Trees.
  • Keep out of reach of children. And stay in the room when any are lit.
  • Set up candles somewhere that they cannot be easily knocked over.
  • Blow out the candles before going to bed at night.

Make sure gifts are age-appropriate, safe and well-made to avoid causing injuries. Here are some tips for choosing gifts for your kids:

  • Read the labels on toys for the age recommendation, whether the toy is safety approved and nontoxic.
  • For small children, stick to bigger toys without small parts to prevent choking. Avoid toys with detachable pieces that could be swallowed.
  • Avoid toys that shoot objects that may cause eye injuries.
  • If a toy is stuffed, check the edge, seams, and any sewn on pieces (like eyes) to make sure they are secure. 
  • Try to avoid toys that contain magnets or small batteries, like button batteries, as they are often swallowed or get stuck in children’s ears or noses and can cause serious injury.
  • If toys have strings or ribbons, remove them to prevent strangulation.
  • Toys should not be placed in cribs with babies. If you hang toys, like mobiles, above a crib, make sure it is out of reach of the baby.

When your family is unwrapping presents, make sure to quickly throw away all wrapping paper and ribbons to avoid choking or fire hazards.