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Prioritize safety this holiday season

By Heather Theisen

Holiday time is a wonderful time of year. Family time is spent happily, delicious food is consumed, and let’s not forget about the beautiful Christmas trees and sparkling lights. What we may not think about during the holiday season are some of the risks associated with our favorite holiday traditions. Let’s review some tips for children and adults regarding Christmas decorations to help keep us safe during this holiday season.

First, the decision must be made to use either a real or fake tree. If you are using a real tree, it is important to choose a fresh one to help reduce the risk of fires. It is also critical that you water your live tree daily to keep the tree moist and decrease the amount of lose, dry “needles” that may fall from the tree, which can become brittle and harmful to the touch. With artificial trees, check the labels before purchasing. You want to ensure the tree is made with fire-resistant materials. As a general guideline to help reduce the risk of fires, all Christmas trees should remain at least three feet away from all open flames or heat sources. This includes candles, the fireplace, heaters or any other implement that may produce heat.

In regard to safety for children, many factors merit consideration when choosing decorations for your home. Inspect all wiring to ensure there are no exposed wires or loose connections. If any of the light strings are flashing or part of the string is not lit, it is best to replace these lights with a new string. It is also suggested that the lights used are LED lights or another light source that does not generate heat so little hands are not in danger of being harmed. Lights should be unplugged whenever you are away from home and while you are sleeping. Ornaments should be made of shatter-resistant materials such as hard plastic and kept out of reach of small children. Avoid the use of items that may look edible to the child, including strings of popcorn, candy canes or fake candy that the child may place in their mouth. These items increase the risk of choking in small children. It is also important to ensure all items on the tree, or around your home, are free of lead. Many items including tinsel, fake icicles and even light strings can contain a high level of lead. Therefore, it is advisable to read the labels on these products. All decorations placed on the tree should be non-combustible or flame resistant.

While we prepare for this holiday season, it is important to review safety guidelines. If an emergency occurs, call 911 immediately. Hopefully, these tips will be useful and allow for a wonderful holiday season for you and your family.

To learn more, consult the following references:

Holiday decoration safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics: aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Holiday-Decorations-Safety-Tips-from-the-American-Academy-of-Pediatrics.aspx

National Fire Protection Association, Christmas Tree Safety: pdf

Heather Theisen is a pediatric nurse practitioner at Garden Park Physician Group – The Pediatric Center, located at 15190 Community Road.; (228) 328-1401.

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