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Keep the Holidays Safe for Kids

Expert offers tips on fire safety, food allergies, choking hazards

THURSDAY, Dec. 9, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- The holiday season can be an especially exciting time of year for children.

But it can also be dangerous, warns Dr. Kate Perkins, medical director of the Children's Health Clinic at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

She offers the following tips to help parents keep their children safe and happy during the holidays:

  • Never leave children alone in a room with a fire burning in the fireplace. Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen that will prevent toddlers from falling into the fireplace. The fire screen should be properly secured, so that it can't fall on a child who might grab it. Don't burn wrapping paper in the fireplace -- it can ignite quickly and cause a flash fire. Always ensure the fire is out before you go to bed. Make sure your fireplace and chimney are clean and in good shape. This will prevent chimney fires and blockages that could result in a build-up of deadly carbon monoxide in the house.
  • Make sure your Christmas tree is stable, so it won't fall on children if they pull at it. Real trees need to be kept properly watered to reduce fire danger. Turn off your Christmas tree lights when you leave the house or go to bed.
  • Be especially vigilant over the holidays if your child has food allergies. For example, many holiday cookies, breads and cakes contain nuts or nut products.
  • Many holiday treats and foods -- hard candies, nuts, hot dogs, vegetable sticks -- are a potential choking risk for children.
  • When you visit friends or relatives, make sure their homes are child-proofed.
  • If you host a party, clean up immediately after it's over. Otherwise, your children could get up during the night and consume leftover alcohol or tobacco. Get rid of balloons right away. Uninflated or broken balloons are a major choking hazard for children.
  • Be wary in crowded shopping malls. Children can easily wander away. Hold on to your child's hand and/or keep your child in your sight at all times.
  • If you live in warm parts of the country, don't forget about pool and water safety over the holidays.
  • Check that all gifts and toys your children receive are age-appropriate for them. Read a toy's instructions and show your child how to play with it properly.
  • Gift wrapping, paper and plastic bags, ribbons and bows can be choking or strangulation risks for children.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more holiday safety tips.

SOURCE: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, news release, December 2004
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