Tips for Preventing Injuries During The Holidays


Holiday decorations make a home look festive, but improper use can result in injuries, deaths, and property loss. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):

  • approximately 1,300 people are treated each year in emergency departments for injuries related to holiday lights
  • another 6,200 are treated for injuries related to holiday decorations and Christmas trees
  • Holiday lights cause about 510 fires each year
  • Christmas trees are involved in about 400 fires.
  • The National Fire Protection Association reported 156 deaths in 1997 from home fires started by candles
  • more than $170 million in property losses was attributed to candles. About one-sixth of fires started by candles occur in December.

 Deck the halls...safely

  • Place Christmas trees and other greenery away from fireplaces and radiators. Keep tree stands filled with water-dried out Christmas trees are a fire hazard.
  • Check each set of tree lights for frayed wires, broken bulbs, and loose connections. Throw away damaged sets. Never string more than three sets of lights on an extension cord, and never run cords or strings of lights behind drapes or under carpets. Turn lights off when you go to bed or leave the house. 
  • Place lit menorahs and other candles away from decorations and drapes. Place candles out of children's reach and where pets can't knock them over. Blow out all candles before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • If you have small children, avoid sharp or breakable decorations. Keep tinsel and other small trimmings out of children's reach. Avoid using decorations that look like candy or food-they may tempt a child to eat them.
  • Use caution when decorating with spun-glass "angel hair" or "bubble lights." They can cause injury if they are swallowed. Only use spray snow that's labeled nontoxic. 
  • Keep holiday plants away from children and pets. Mistletoe, holly berries, and Christmas cactus are poisonous if swallowed. Poinsettias can cause stomach irritation in humans, and they can make pets very sick.

Many injuries occur to both adults and children on shopping trips. Each year:
  • about 21,000 children age 5 and under are treated in emergency departments for injuries associated with shopping carts. 
  • Escalators, found in almost every shopping mall, are associated with about 6,000 injuries each year, according to the CPSC. 
  • Violent crimes can also result in injuries, and the 1995 National Crime Victimization Survey found that 12 percent of violent crimes occurred in commercial establishments. Eight percent occurred in parking lots and garages.

Shop 'til you drop

  • Help keep your children safe while shopping.
  • Teach them to go to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated. 
  • Keep children under age 4 in a stroller or supervise them closely. 
  • If you place your child in a shopping cart, always use the safety belt. Stay close to the cart. Never let your child stand in or push a shopping cart.
  • Don't be an easy victim for violent crime. 
  • Stay alert at all times and pay attention to your surroundings. 
  • Park in a well-lit space away from decorative bushes. Lock your car, roll up the windows, and hide packages in the trunk or under a blanket. Be especially alert in parking decks and underground garages. 
  • Don't overload yourself with packages. 
  • Have your car keys in hand before heading to the parking lot. 
  • Be careful when riding on escalators. 
  • Make sure no one in your group has loose shoe laces, drawstrings, scarves, or mittens that could get trapped in the escalator. 
  • Hold your child's hand, face forward, and keep feet away from the edge of the steps. 
  • Never bring strollers, carts, or walkers on an escalator. 
  • Where possible, cross the street at designated crosswalks. Before you step off the curb, make sure approaching vehicles have come to a complete stop.

Source:  The  tips listed above - provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, National SAFE KIDS Campaign, and other safety organizations-can help you and your family have a safe holiday season. CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Last Editorial Review: 11/15/2000

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