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Merry Christmas-Almost! By Johanna Hicks

Merry Christmas – Almost!

My how the time has flown!  It’s the time of year with multiple holidays, parties, traveling to spend time with family, or relatives coming to visit you.  With only one week until Christmas, turn up the calm.  Put your priorities at the top of the list: plenty of time to sleep, play and exercise.

Unfortunately, for emergency room doctors it’s also one of the busiest seasons.  Learn how to protect your little ones from some common holiday dangers, so you and your family can enjoy a season that’s happy and healthy:


1)       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 kids. Symptoms of plant poisoning can include rashes, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you suspect that your child has eaten any part of a plant, immediately call your doctor or the National Poison Center: (800) 222-1222.  Snow sprays may be harmful if the aerosol propellants are used improperly.

2)      Alcohol poisoning is a common risk for children during the holiday season. Many parents host holiday parties where alcohol is served. Take care to remove all empty and partially empty cups as soon as possible. Because kids imitate adults, many may drink the beverages they see adults drinking. Children become “drunk” much more quickly than adults, so even small amounts of alcohol can be dangerous.  It’s best to leave the alcohol out of your social gatherings altogether.  When consumed before driving, it can become deadly.

3)      Food poisoning is another potential holiday hazard.  Practice food safety by washing hands, utensils, dishes, and anything else that comes in contact with raw meat, including poultry and fish, and raw eggs before and after use.  Don’t contaminate a serving dish with raw meat.  Store leftovers properly and heat them thoroughly before serving.

Choking & Swallowing:

  • Tree ornaments, light bulbs, icicles, tinsel, and small toys are potential choking hazards for small children because they may block the airway. The general rule of thumb is that if it’s small enough to fit in the mouths of babies and toddlers, it’s too small to play with.
  • Common holiday foods such as peanuts or popcorn are potential choking hazards and should not be given to children under age 4.
  • The needles of Christmas trees can cause painful cuts in the mouth and throat of a child who swallows them.


  • Keep your tree secured in a sturdy stand so that it doesn’t tip over (or isn’t knocked over by kids or pets) and keep it away from all heat sources, such as electrical outlets, radiators, and portable space heaters.  If you buy an artificial tree, be sure it’s labeled “fire-retardant.”  Turn off all lights, both indoor and outdoor, and extinguish all candles every night before you go to bed.
  • Avoid using real candles on a tree because if the needles are dry, they can easily catch fire.  Never leave the room with taper candles burning — it only takes a minute for a spark from a candle to burst into flames.  Keep lit candles away from fabrics and flammable decorations and use only flame-retardant decorations when decking your halls.
  • Circuits that are overloaded with lights, decorations, and accessories can start a fire. Don’t overload indoor or outdoor electrical outlets.
  • Have your fireplace inspected before you light your first fire of the season.  A chimney professional can clean your fireplace and ensure that it is safe to use.  You can protect your family by using a sturdy fireplace screen when burning fires. Never burn paper or pine boughs, since those materials can float out of the chimney and ignite a nearby home or your own roof.


  • A lot of cooking goes on during the holiday season, so there are many opportunities for burns and scaldings.  Keep pot handles turned away from the front of the stove.  To prevent accidents, watch your kids while you bake or cook.
  • Keep breakable ornaments out of young kids’ reach — or keep them off the tree until your children are older.  If one does break, clean up the pieces quickly.
  • Car accidents and injuries to children increase during the holiday season.  Prevent a holiday ER visit by making sure that kids are buckled up securely during car rides and don’t drive after drinking alcohol.

Be extra cautious when traveling at night on holidays such as Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, when there is a higher incidence of impaired driving. From our Extension staff to you, Merry Christmas!


Closing Thought

Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve.  Middle age is when you’re forced to – Bill Vaughan

Johanna Hicks
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Family & Consumer Sciences
1200-B W. Houston
P.O.Box 518
Sulphur springs, TX 75483
903-885-3443 – phone
903-439-4909 – Fax
[email protected]

Author: Staff Reporter

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