Pediatrics | Published November 27, 2019

Keep your family safe this holiday season

With the holiday season upon us, keep these tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in mind to safely celebrate the holidays:

Trees and Decorations

  • Buying live trees? Check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, its needles are hard to pull from branches, and its needles do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • Setting up a tree at home? Place it away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators. Because heated rooms dry out live trees rapidly, be sure to monitor water levels daily, and keep the tree stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of foot traffic, and do not block doorways with the tree.
  • Buying an artificial tree? Look for the label: "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean that the tree will not catch fire, it does indicate that the tree is more resistant to catching fire.
  • Decorating a tree in homes with small children? Take special care to avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children, who could swallow or inhale small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.

Candles

  • Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.
  • Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface where kids and pets cannot reach them or knock them over. Lighted candles should be placed away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture.

Lights

  • Use only lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Lights for both indoor and outdoor usage must meet strict requirements that testing laboratories are able to verify.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets and do not use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  • Check each extension cord to make sure it is rated for the intended use and is in good condition. Do not use cords with cuts or signs of fraying.
  • Check outdoor lights for labels showing that the lights have been certified for outdoor use, and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle or a portable GF.

Fireplaces

  • Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown onto wood fires. Fire salts contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting, if swallowed. Keep them away from children.
  • Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result because wrappings can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

Toys

  • Age appropriate
    • Check manufacturer's age recommendations. 
    • Keep in mind child's age, interests and skill level. 
    • Age levels are determined by safety factors not maturity. 
  • Think big
    • Small parts can be choking hazards. 
    • Avoid balls, marbles, coins and other small pieces. 
    • If a part fits through a toilet paper tube, it's too small. 
  • Strong and sturdy
    • Parts should be attached securely. 
    • Toys should be strong enough to be chewed. 
    • Batter cases should be closed securely with screws. 
  • Play it safe
    • Read warning and safety labels on packaging. 
    • Avoid sharp edges or points. 
    • Cords and strings can become choking hazards. 
    • Propelled objects can cause eye injury and choking. 
  • Easy to use
    • Instructions for assembly and use should be included. 
    • Riding toys shouldn't easily tip. 
    • Fabrics should be washable and hygienic. 
  • Nontoxic 
    • All paint should be lead free. 
    • Look for crayons and paints labeled non-toxic. 
    • Materials should be flame resistant.