Deck the Halls with Safety

Tips for preventing injuries to your child.

 Deck the Halls with Safety


If you believe the holiday carol, this is the most wonderful time of the year. From a young child’s perspective, you can see why. The holiday season is filled with decorations, special traditions, family gatherings, delicious treats and the promise of presents.

While it is an exciting time of year, the holiday season with all its trappings, including candles, trees, lights and toys, can also present safety hazards. No one wants to make a trip to the doctor’s office or hospital ER with an injured child over the holidays. To ensure holly, jolly festivities at your home, spot the holiday hazards before they become a threat.

Toys and Gifts. While toys provide hours of enjoyment, they can come with hidden dangers. For example, toys with small parts could be a choking hazard for younger kids. When picking out toys for presents, choose items that are age-appropriate and always read and follow the instructions that come with the toy. Ensure battery-operated toys are in good condition, and avoid using old batteries that can leak and cause corrosive burns. It is best if an adult inserts batteries into the toy, ensuring they are properly installed and inaccessible to children.

Costume jewellery can also present a choking hazard. Plus, it may contain lead or cadmium. Serious health problems could occur if these metals are sucked, chewed or swallowed. For peace of mind, check the latest product safety information at

Unwrapping presents can be as much fun for a child as the toys inside, but packing materials such as wrapping paper, plastic bags or Styrofoam could pose a choking and suffocating hazard. After your family has finished opening gifts, dispose of the packing materials to avoid potential problems.

Candles. Lit candles can add to the ambience of the season, but can also cause fires and burns. Never leave burning candles unattended or within reach of children. To further reduce the risk of fire, keep candles away from curtains and other flammable items, and use sturdy candleholders that are less likely to fall. Cutting candle wicks to a 

short length helps to pre-vent high flames.

Holiday Trees. If you are buying a real tree, remember that dry trees are more flammable. So pick one that is fresh (the needles will be hard to pull off). Keep it in a cool, sheltered area until you are ready to bring it indoors for decorating. Water the tree daily, and dispose of it as soon as the holidays are over, or when the needles start to fall.

Keep any tree, real or artificial, properly secured in a sturdy stand and away from high-traffic areas so it will not fall on, or be knocked over by, a child. To avoid fires, a tree should also be kept away from heat sources such as heating vents, radiators, fireplaces and burning candles.

Holiday Decorations. Decorating with lights and ornaments can accentuate your home, giving it that extra holiday flair. However, a bit of caution is advised. Ornaments that are sharp, breakable, or come with small, removable parts should be kept away from young kids. Hang these ornaments on the higher branches of the tree so they are out-of-reach of little hands.

When using lights, ensure they are certified by reputable organizations such as the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Check all light bulbs before you put them up, making sure broken or burned-out bulbs are replaced with ones recommended by the manufacturer. Ensure lights, bulbs, sockets and extension cords are not frayed or broken, and avoid overloading electrical outlets with plugs. Use indoor lights inside, and outdoor lights outside – never the other way around.

Family Get-Togethers. Spending time with family and friends is on many people’s holiday to-do list. Because these visits can be hectic, it is important to supervise little ones. Watch that they do not get into things they shouldn’t, such as tobacco products, alcohol left on tables, or medication in open purses. Be extra cautious when visiting the home of a friend or relative, as the new surroundings may be unfamiliar and not ‘childproofed.’

During this holiday season, deck the halls – and the rest of your home – with safety! Reducing the risk of childhood injuries makes for a merrier holiday celebration for everyone!

Author: Shelley Shaughnessy

Shelley Shaughnessy is a Family Health Nurse with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit.

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