December 7, 2007

Hidden Holiday Hazards

Angie’s List offers easy ways to childproof during the holidays

For many homeowners, putting up decorations and trimming the tree are some of the most enjoyable traditions of the season, not to mention how fun it is for children. However, the addition of colorful ornaments and sparkling lights can quickly create potential safety hazards for kids.

“While it’s important to be fun and festive this time of year it is also important for parents to be aware of hidden dangers the holidays can bring,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List. “And, at the holidays with the addition of ornaments, candles and even wrapping paper and ribbon around the house, the opportunity for injuries to occur increases, especially among children.”

Hicks says that it’s important for parents to take a look around their home from a child’s perspective.

“So much of childproofing is common sense,” Hicks says. “Getting on your hands and knees and crawling around your home is actually a good idea. You’ll be surprised at the things you see from that angle.”

As you prepare your home for the holidays, Angie’s List identifies 13 potential hazards you should be aware of to protect your child.

• Holiday trees: Buy an artificial tree that’s fire retardant and keep all types of trees away from heat sources. Kids could climb a tree or knock it over. Use fire-safe materials such as wire or nylon rope to secure your tree and keep it from tipping over. Vacuum or sweep around your live tree every few days, especially later in the holiday season because needles from holiday trees can also cause painful cuts in the mouth and throat if a child swallows them.

• Lights: Check that your lights have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories or ETL Testing Laboratories. Only use lights that have fuses, and check each set of lights for broken, frayed or damaged parts. Hang them out of reach of small children.

• Trimming the tree: Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded materials, and it also might be the year to avoid using strings of garland, especially on low-hanging branches.

• Decorations: Avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, and keep small or glass ornaments out of your child’s reach. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt the child to put the object in their mouth. Mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, Jerusalem cherry plants, and other plants are commonly used as decorations during the holidays. Like many plants, these are considered potentially poisonous and should be kept out of the reach of children.

• Wrapping paper and gifts: Secure bows and ribbons on gifts, or don’t use them. And, as gifts are opened, dispose of wrapping paper, bows and ribbon, as well as bubble wrap used for packing in gifts.

• Candles: Children could knock candles over, creating a fire hazard. Never leave young children unattended around candles.

• Electrical outlets: Cover electrical outlets, including those on power strips, to prevent children from sticking fingers or objects into the socket.

• Dangling tablecloths: Make sure the edges of the cloth are out of reach from crawling children.

• Cooking: All the cooking going on during the holidays creates more opportunities for burns. Keep pot handles turned away from the front of the stove and always keep the oven door closed. Watch your children while you are baking or cooking in order to prevent accidents.

• Treats: Keep all candies, nuts, popcorn and small holiday treats that may be a choking hazard out of reach of children.

• Alcohol poisoning: Alcohol poisoning is a common risk for children during the holiday season. Many parents host holiday parties where alcohol is served. Remove all empty and partially empty cups as soon as possible. Because children imitate adults, many may drink the beverages they see adults drinking.

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