Last minute holiday safety tips

Holiday safetyby Donna Bucciarelli, R.N., trauma prevention coordinator, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak; education program manager, Safety City U.S.A., a Beaumont Children’s Hospital program

I don’t think I’m alone in my annual holiday panic over sending out cards and greetings, wrapping gifts , baking cookies, preparing favorite holiday foods and getting the house ready to entertain guests. It can be overwhelming!

Yet every year, as busy and hectic as things are, I always remember specific events from past Christmases that make me slow down and try to make sure this time of year will be safe for my family and friends. These events have forever changed how I entertain in my home for the holidays.

No one plans for bad things to happen, but a little planning and awareness can certainly help to prevent injuries and accidents in our homes. No one wants to spend their holiday in the emergency room!

One Christmas when I was a child, my younger cousin had a very scary choking episode after a Christmas party. Then, a few years later, my great aunt was reaching over the dining room table at dinner and her sleeve touched a candle and caught fire. Thankfully, neither of them was seriously hurt, but at those moments, we weren’t having a “happy” holiday.

To try to prevent anything like this happening at your holiday celebrations, please consider implementing one or more of these safety practices:

To prevent house fires:

  • always remove decorations “hung with care” from the fireplace mantel before starting a fire
  • make sure the fireplace flue is in the open position before lighting a fire
  • don’t go to bed, leave the house or close the flue until the fire is completely out
  • if guests will be smoking in your home during a party, use large, deep ashtrays
  • empty ashtrays into a metal container and place it outdoors at the end of the party
  • after your party, check all trash cans for cigarette butts that may be smoldering
  • use LED “candles” in all holiday luminaries, candleholders and decorations
  • if using real candles, place them where they can’t be knocked over, run into or too near decorations, the tree or wrapping paper
  • never leave a lighted candle unattended – blow candles out if leaving the room even for a short period of time (this is why LED candles are so great—you can leave them on all night, then change the batteries in the morning)

 To prevent choking and aspiration:

  • Clean up immediately after a holiday party. A busy toddler could get up early, or wander away from your watchful eye (especially if you are the busy host) and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco (this is what actually happened with my cousin).
  • Avoid holiday trimmings and decorations that resemble candy or food. Young children could put them in their mouths and choke or aspirate them.

And of course, prevent vehicle crashes and injuries by ensuring each vehicle and/or family has a designated driver who will not be consuming alcohol (more than half of all traffic fatalities are alcohol related).

Wishing you a very happy and safe holiday season from your friends at Beaumont Children’s Hospital and Safety City, U.S.A.

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