Deck the halls with care and keep eyes on young children

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Deck the halls with boughs of holly, but don’t eat the bright red berries. It may sound silly, but it can certainly happen.

“One of the greatest dangers for babies and small children is accidental ingestions, and this is true any time of year,” said Dr. Natalie Lane, Medical Director of the Children’s Hospital of Georgia Emergency Department. “Items such as leaves, berries and other plant material can be poisonous if swallowed.”

So while it may be tradition to use holly, mistletoe, poinsettias, and other yuletide plants, you may want to rethink this if you have children in the home.

“For a safer option, decorate with artificial plants and foliage,” advises Lane. “However, if you must use real plants, be sure to pick up leaves, berries and other fallen plant material, and always keep these items out of reach of children.”

Coin or button batteries are also a swallowing hazard for curious kids. About 3,500 battery ingestion cases are reported to poison control centers annually. These tiny batteries are used to power many commonly found items in the home, including TV remotes, calculators and watches. They may also be used in light-up decorations, flameless candles and children’s toys.

“These tiny batteries can do huge damage,” Lane said. “They can get stuck in a child’s throat and burn through to the esophagus in as little as two hours. If the battery makes it further, the damage just continues to burn the intestines and stomach.”

“Seek emergency medical care immediately if a child swallows a battery,” Lane urges. “Don’t let the child eat or drink anything, and don’t induce vomiting, as these actions can actually increase the damage being done by the battery.”

Keep devices with button batteries out of reach of children. The best security for these are the compartments that require a screw driver or similar tool to open, Lane said.

Other dangers to watch out for include small or broken ornament pieces and tiny toy parts. These could pose choking risks and penetrating injuries.

Finally, when it comes to the Christmas tree, Lane warns that a curious, determined child can quickly pull off string lights, ornaments and, possibly, topple a tree. A couple of precautions to keep in mind when it comes to tree safety are:

  • Use a large, sturdy tree stand.
  • Cut branches near the bottom so they aren’t an eye hazard for small children.
  • Keep sharp or breakable ornaments out of reach of children.
  • Consider putting a safety gate or other protection around the tree when a baby or small children are in the room.
  • Be sure cords and outlets are out of reach of children.
  • Never leave children unattended around the tree or any other holiday decorations.

Lastly, Lane discourages the use of traditional burning candles, as they can drip hot wax, causing burns to the skin, as well as start fires in the home if left unattended or knocked over.

“It’s best to use artificial candles that are battery-operated to simulate real flames,” Lane said. “Most of these can be enjoyed for much, much longer than a real candle, and many have timers for auto shutoff.”

For more tips on safely decking the halls, visit American Academy of Pediatrics.

The 154-bed not-for-profit Children’s Hospital of Georgia is the second-largest children’s hospital in the state, providing the highest level of pediatric critical care and neonatal intensive care, as well as a wide range of general and complex health care for children. CHOG was recently ranked the nation’s top performing hospital in pediatric quality and safety by Vizient, Inc., a consortium of the country’s academic medical centers. Visit facebook.com/GAChildrens or follow on Twitter at twitter.com/GAChildrens

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Denise Parrish
Written by
Denise Parrish

Denise Parrish is Senior Communications Strategist for Operations at Augusta University. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at 706-721-9566 or mparrish@augusta.edu.

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Denise Parrish Written by Denise Parrish

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