SATURDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- From buying a Christmas tree to stringing up lights and wrapping gifts, there are a number of health and safety issues parents and guardians should consider during the holidays, according to child health experts.
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The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips to help keep children and the whole family safe:
- Make sure, if you select an artificial tree, that it is flame-resistant.
- When selecting a live tree, find one that is fresh. Being green, having a sticky trunk and having needles that don't bend, fall off or break easily are signs that a tree is fresh and less likely to pose a fire hazard.
- Trim a few inches off the bottom of the trunk to help it absorb more water and refill the tree stand with water regularly.
- Trees should not be set up in high-traffic areas or near fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters.
- When hanging tree lights, always make sure that each bulb works and there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
- To avoid electrocution, electric lights should never be used on a metallic tree.
- When decorating with lights outside, check to make sure the lights have been certified for outdoor use.
- Hooks and insulated staples should be used to hold lights in place -- not nails or tacks.
- All lights should be plugged into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
- Never leave lights on when you are not home because a short circuit could cause a fire.
- When it's time to take lights down, don't pull or tug on them.
- Only flame-resistant materials should be hung on a tree.
- Choose only plastic or nonleaded tinsel or artificial icicles.
- Open flames, such as lighted candles, should not be placed near a tree or in an area where children can touch them or knock them over.
- Avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable -- especially if there are small children in the home.
- Decorations with small parts or those that look like real candy or food should also not be used near small children, who could swallow or choke on them.
- Wear gloves and follow directions carefully when using spun glass, known as "angel hair," or fake snow sprays.
- All wrapping papers, bags, ribbons and bows should be removed from fireplace areas once gifts have been opened to avoid fire hazards.
- Quickly dispose of plastic bags and long ribbons, which can pose suffocation hazards to small children.
- Be sure to select age-appropriate toys to match the abilities, skills and interests of each child, and to avoid potential dangers such as choking on small parts or button batteries.
- Give children under the age of 10 years battery-operated toys rather than those that must be plugged in to an electrical outlet.
- Strings and ribbons should be removed from toys before they are given to young children to avoid strangulation, particularly cords that are more than 12 inches long.
- Toys should be kept in a designated location to keep youngsters from gaining access to older kids' toys.
- Keep hot liquids and foods away from the edges of tables and counters where they could be easily reached by young kids or knocked over.
- Be sure young children do not have access to microwave ovens.
- Fully cook meats and poultry, and thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruits to avoid harmful bacteria.
- Frequent hand washing and using separate utensils during food preparation will also help avoid bacterial infection.
- Thaw raw meat in the refrigerator and put cooked foods away within two hours of preparation.
- Clean up immediately after a holiday party so that children do not face potentially dangerous situations in the morning, such as leftover spoiled food or alcoholic beverages.
- Remember that not all homes you visit will be child-proofed, so be aware of potential dangers, such as unlocked medicine or cleaning supply cabinets.
- Keep a laminated list of important phone numbers, such as the police, fire department and pediatrician, that can be accessed in the event of an emergency. The Poison Help Line is 1-800-222-1222.
- Traveling and holiday festivities can be stressful for children. Try to maintain children's sleep, nap and eating schedules to help them feel more comfortable.
- Remove all greens and other decorations from fireplace area and be sure the flue is open before building a fire.
- Keep "fire salts," which produce colored flames, away from children. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense stomach and intestinal irritation and vomiting if swallowed.
- Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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