'Tis the Season for Injuries, Poisonings and Fires?

Health Department Says Simple Precautions Keep Holidays Safe

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 9, 2009) – 'Tis the season for injuries, poisonings and fires, but it doesn't have to be that way. The State Department of Health advises taking some basic precautions to make sure that your holiday is safe and loved ones remain healthy.

Toys and Games

When purchasing toys and games, well-meaning parents and relatives get caught up in the holiday excitement and may not be aware of the risks of seemingly appropriate toys and the basic safety guidelines that can reduce or eliminate them.

Choking is the most common cause of toy-related deaths. To keep children safe from toy injuries, the Health Department advises:

  • Select age appropriate toys, read the labels. Look for toys that give age and safety recommendations as a guide.
  • Beware of choking hazards. Avoid toys or games with small parts or parts that have sharp edges or points. Children can choke on magnets, buttons, game pieces, balloons, small balls, strings, ribbons (especially longer than 5 inches), toy packaging and wrapping, batteries, tinsel and decorations.
  • Read and follow the directions for proper use.
  • Remove cords, knobs, and beads from pull toys, and skip electronic toys for young children.
  • If you purchase ride-on toys, skateboards or in-line skates, consider a helmet and safety gear sized to fit.
  • Projectile toys such as air rockets, darts and slingshots are not for young children; improper use of these toys can result in serious eye injuries.
  • Chargers and adapters can pose a burn hazard; their use requires adult supervision.
  • Check for toy recalls regularly at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's Web site http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prerel.html to make sure that your children's toys are safe.

All the Trimmings, Holiday Cheer...and More

During the holidays, pretty plants, colorful decorations, and grown-up drinks can tempt a small child. The holidays often bring relatives and guests into the home with gifts, plants, decorations, as well as suitcases and purses containing medications. The excitement, distractions and additional stresses of the holidays mean parents must be extra vigilant to protect children and pets from poisoning. Those risks include:

  • Ornamental plants, such as holly, mistletoe, poinsettias, bittersweet and Jerusalem cherry can cause mild illness to severe poisoning, especially if swallowed, and should be kept out of reach of children and pets.
  • Lead can be found in holiday lights, antique ornaments and plastic decorations. To avoid lead exposure, children should not put these items in their mouths and should wash their hands often.
  • Spray Snow and Angel Hair can injure eyes, skin, nose, lungs and stomach if inhaled or swallowed.
  • Bubble lights and lamp oil can be poisonous if swallowed.
  • Poisoning can occur if children drink leftover cocktails after a party. Children are affected by alcohol much more quickly than adults, so even small amounts can be dangerous.
  • Cigarettes and cigars contain enough nicotine to be dangerous to children. Ingestion can result in vomiting, sweating and seizures. Do not allow people to smoke in or around your house. Secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children and in adults who do not smoke.
  • Colognes, perfumes, after-shave and food extracts may also contain dangerous levels of alcohol.
  • Any medication brought into the home should have a child resistant cap and be kept out of reach of children.
  • Keep food safety in mind during the holiday season. Wash hands and utensils after preparing raw food; cook meats and poultry thoroughly; and promptly refrigerate dips, eggs, cheeses and meats during the holiday season

Call the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222 in an emergency.


Fires are of particular concern during the holiday season. Candles, Christmas trees, holiday lights, and holiday decorations are leading factors in residential fires. Be sure you have working smoke alarms throughout your home. To prevent holiday fires:

  • Start by selecting a fresh tree. The needles on fresh trees are green, do not break easily, and are hard to pull back from the branches. The trunks of fresh trees should be sticky with resin. When selecting a tree, bounce the trunk on the ground. Trees that lose many needles are likely to be dry and therefore pose a fire hazard.
  • Before you set up the tree, cut a few inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood and promote water absorption. Keep the tree stand filled with water to prevent the tree from drying out. Place trees away from traffic areas, exits, and heat sources. Heat dries out trees and makes them more likely to catch on fire.
  • Use only holiday decorations and artificial trees that are flame-resistant or flame-retardant. Avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable if you have small children.
  • Replace strings of lights that have worn, frayed, or broken cords, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, loose bulb connections, or excessive kinking.
  • To avoid overloading electrical outlets, do not connect more than three light strands of mini-lights. Connect stands of lights to an extension cord before plugging in the cord. Turn holiday lights off when you leave your home or go to bed. Never use electric lights on a metallic tree; this poses an electrocution hazard.

Enjoy an injury-free holiday.