Toms River, N.J. -- Holidays
are times that people enjoy spending with family and friends. During
this time, many choose to decorate their homes and places of work
to further cherish the holiday feeling with trees, signs, lights,
and candles. Unfortunately, the holiday season can be a time for
accidents and injuries. Any change in routine can result in problems.
“Holidays are a deviation from the normal routine,” says
Laurence DesRochers, MD, chairman of Emergency Medicine at Community
Medical Center. “We may visit a grandparent’s house
that is not babyproofed, or navigate a home with an unfamiliar
layout, or prepare a new meal. Accidents happen because of the
newness of the situation.”
Many holidays involve candles and lights, which can have a festive
effect if used properly. Neil Bryant, regional director of Safety
Management for Community and Kimball Medical Centers, recommends
that candles be positioned in a glass or nonflammable container.
They should be kept away from curtains or any object that can be
blown in the direction of the flame. Lighted candles should never
be left unattended.
For electric lighting, UL-approved decorations should be used
and there should never be more than the number of strands listed
by the manufacturer connected into one extension cord. Sockets
should be kept dry and outdoor lighting should only be used outside,
Trees and wreaths should be placed far from hot, dry places, such
as the fireplace. The freshest evergreens are the safest; needles
should bend, not drop when brushed by hand. Live decorations should
never be burned, and the same can be said for gift-wrapping.
“The inks and dyes that compose ribbons, paper and garlands
break down into poisonous gases when burned. A flash fire may result
as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely,” says Bryant. “Instead,
place paper and decorations in the trash.”
Households not used to having young children around should give
some thought to their safety when visiting during the holiday season. Dr.
DesRochers especially cautions that young children can easily be
scalded from hot foods spilled down onto them from a tabletop or
kitchen counter or suffer serious injury from playing too near
Carbon monoxide poisoning is also a concern during colder months,
and special attention should be paid to installing and maintaining
carbon monoxide detectors. “Every home should have at least
one CO detector. It should be considered just as important as a
smoke detector and the batteries should be checked regularly,” Dr.
In all emergencies, Dr. DesRochers and Bryant say seeking medical
treatment as quickly as possible is crucial. Call 9-1-1 or go to
the nearest Emergency Department when an accident, injury or illness
The following are additional safety tips from Community Medical
- Keep lighters and matches away from young children.
- Check electrical lighting for fraying strand and broken bulbs
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other
firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only
insulated staples, not nails or tacks, to hold strings in place.
Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware
- Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house.
The lights could short out and start a fire.
- Place a Christmas tree in water as soon as possible and refill
the container often.
- Purchase an artificial tree labeled "Fire Resistant." Although
this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate
the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
- Keep tree trimmings with small, removable, shape or breakable
parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing
or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy
or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
- When buying extra batteries for new toys, don’t forget
about your smoke detectors.
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