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Parents Holiday Survival Guide: Children’s Holiday Hazards in Unexpected Places

by Kelly Levasseur, D.O., Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Beaumont Children’s Hospital

The holiday season is an exciting time for families. It’s a season marked by homes filled with all kinds of festive decorations, parties nearly every weekend and travel schedules that are enough to make our heads spin.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, and if we’re not careful, all that excitement can be hazardous to our children. Following a few simple tips can help parents keep their children safe from holiday hazards hiding in unexpected places.

On the tree.

Take note of dangerous decorations. Be sure all ornaments and other items are kept well out of reach of young children. Be especially wary of anything made of glass that could break into sharp pieces and anything with small parts that might present a choking hazard. Use caution in decorating your home and take a few minutes to survey the area before turning the kids loose in someone else’s.

At the bar.

Moderate your alcohol consumption and keep an eye on your cup. Parental supervision is incredibly important at holiday parties. Consuming alcohol makes it more difficult to monitor children, who as we all know seem to have a knack for getting into trouble. Unattended drinks present a particular problem at holiday parties. Adult beverages might be served in the same style of cup as those intended for children, or the colorful appearance of the adult cups might lead unsupervised children to take a drink of something they shouldn’t.

Inside the presents.

Carefully evaluate toys and consider the age of the recipient before buying gifts. Even when they are given with the best intentions, some toys can be dangerous. The 30th annual Trouble in Toyland report showcases a number of potentially hazardous toys and finds that despite recent progress in labeling and toy safety, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season. Hazards identified include toxicity, choking, extreme volume and more.

On the floor.

Don’t presume pets or plants are kid-friendly. Pets under holiday stress and young children looking to meet a new furry friend can be a dangerous combination. This is one reason why the number of patients with dog bite injuries often spikes in December in the Beaumont Children’s Hospital pediatric emergency units in Royal Oak and Troy. Find out if the home you’ll be visiting has a pet and speak with your children about how to approach it before you walk in the door. Similarly, ensure children stay away from common holiday plants like poinsettias, holly and mistletoe, which can cause a range of gastrointestinal problems if eaten.

On the calendar.

As the calendar fills up with holiday activities, it becomes easier and easier to lose track of the healthy habits that parents work so hard to established throughout the year. To help your children get the most enjoyment out of the holiday season, make sure they play a lot (and not just with those new video games!), get plenty of sleep and eat well.

If an injury or illness does occur, trust your instincts. If you feel your child needs to get to the emergency room, there’s a good chance you’re right. You know your child the best. You’re the best one to make that decision.

Think ahead.

Thinking ahead is a key component to being prepared for a potential emergency situation. Think about which emergency room you would prefer for your family. Is it a dedicated pediatric emergency room with technology and specialists just for kids? Is it important to you that if your child needs to be admitted he or she stay close to home at the same location as the emergency room? Considering these important questions in advance of an emergency will help you remain calm and make the best possible decision for your child.

Following these simple tips can help you and your family have an enjoyable, healthy and safe holiday season.

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