Eight tips to keep kids safe during the holidays

Being prepared and following simple safety tips can help avoid accidents and injuries during the holidays

The holidays can be fun, but they can present unique concerns when it comes to kids’ safety.

BC Children’s Hospital and BC Ambulance Service are encouraging parents and caregivers to take preventative steps to help make this a safe holiday season. Between December 23, 2010 and January 5, 2011 BC Ambulance Service responded to 194 calls province-wide in support of patients who were 10 years of age or younger.

“Christmas and the holiday season are a special and busy time of the year,” says Dr. Shelina Babul, associate director and sports injury specialist, BC Injury and Research Prevention Unit at BC Children’s Hospital, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority. “But with all the excitement and joy of the holidays, some potential safety hazards can cause serious injury. Parents need to be vigilant and keep a watchful eye on their children.”

“An injury can occur so quickly, but by thinking ahead, parents can help keep their families safe,” says Allen Pruden, BC Ambulance Service paramedic. “Being prepared and following simple safety tips can help avoid accidents and injuries during the holidays.”

Winter holiday tips are available on both the BC Children’s Hospital and BC Ambulance Service websites. Here are a few to keep in mind this season:

1.      Toys: Choose items that match your child’s age, abilities, skills and interest level. Small pieces which can easily come off, and small batteries and magnets can cause choking and/or internal chemical burns. Toys with strings longer than 12 inches could strangle babies and toddlers.

2.      Strings of electric lights are hazardous as they are attractive to young children. They run the risk of being strangled, burned or electrocuted if they get wrapped up in the wires or put lights in their mouths.

3.      Fireplaces: A child’s skin is four times thinner than an adult’s and can burn four times faster. The glass of a gas fireplace heats up to 200˚C (400˚F) in just 6 minutes and takes 45 minutes to cool down. The pilot light of a gas fireplace may also heat the glass enough to cause a burn. Stay close to your child when in a room with a fireplace that is on or has recently been turned off. Block the fireplace with a hearth gate or screen that bolts into or around your fireplace, or put a safety gate in the doorway to the room with a fireplace.

4.      Tinsel, ornaments and gift wrap: While tinsel can make a tree sparkle, it’s also a choking hazard for young children, hang them high and out of your child’s reach. Also, keep ornaments higher up on the tree as they can break easily and cause cuts or harm if swallowed. Be careful of holiday gift-wrapping like bags, paper, ribbons and bows. These items can strangle, suffocate or choke small children

5.      Place your Christmas tree a good distance from any heat sources such as fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Cut a few inches off the trunk to expose fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will help to keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.

6.      Candles and matches create a fire hazard: Even school-age kids are drawn to flames, so keep lighted candles well out of reach. Don’t put lighted candles on a tablecloth or anything else that a child could pull down or knock over. Place lighted menorahs on a high surface and not too close to the edge of a table.

7.      Food: Children may be eating unfamiliar foods for the first time this holiday season. It’s common to see more injuries in Emergency as a result of children getting large pieces of pieces of nuts, carrots, or apples stuck in their airways which can stop them from breathing. Cut foods into small pieces and encourage children to sit quietly while eating. Children are less likely to choke if they chew food thoroughly before swallowing.

8.      Visiting friends and family: The homes you visit may not be childproofed. Each year, curious toddlers choke or get poisoned by exploring and getting their hands on items not meant for children. These include: pills, vitamins, medicines, cosmetics and cleaning products. If you’re entertaining, designate a safe space for visitors’ purses and coats.

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