The holidays are a time when we spend time together and with family. There are decorations and hot chocolate, but there are many hidden dangers that it’s important to be aware of, because many injuries are preventable. On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Meghan Martin, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, shares important safety tips for parents.
What are some common injuries you see in the Emergency Center during the holidays?
We tend to see an increase in burn during the holidays. Many kitchens are gathering places, and kids love to be where everyone else is. Make sure to use a back burner of the stove and turn handles away so kids (or adults or pets) don’t pull them accidentally. Remind visitors to be careful with hot coffee or tea. If it is on a coffee table near a toddler, it can be messy and create burns.
Holiday candles should be 12 inches away from anything flammable and make sure to extinguish them before going to sleep or when you leave the room. Christmas trees can also be a fire hazard. Make sure you water it frequently so it doesn’t dry out and become a fire hazard. Turn off decorative lights before going to bed. And make sure your smoke alarms have fresh batteries.
Are there other hazards with decorations?
Christmas ornaments are beautiful and are sometimes keepsakes, but our kids and pets seem drawn to them, so make sure the fragile ones are high up and out of reach. The metal hooks on ornaments can also be a hazard, so on the lower ornaments, consider using string to make a small loop or use a pipe cleaner. Some holiday plants are toxic to kids and pets including mistletoe and holly berries.
Are there dangers with holiday toys?
Probably the biggest danger with toys is something so small, button batteries. They can be found in remote controls and small electric toys. Magnets are incorporated into multiple toys, but if swallowed can cause injuries to the bowels. Sometimes even bigger kids put these in their mouths, so remind kids to never put things in their mouths. The toy or game should be appropriate for the child’s age and development, small parts can be a choking hazard for younger kids.
For any bikes, scooters and skateboards, don’t forget a helmet. Head injuries can be life threatening or life altering.
Many people spend time with family over the holidays, what things can we do to protect kids?
Since we live in Florida, many people have in-home pools, so pool safety applies even in the winter. Make sure there is a pool fence and anytime children are around water, they should be closely supervised. Grandparents often are on medications, and kids love to inspect purses or bags. Make sure medications are in safe places, as these can be very dangerous to small kids.
What can we treat at home and when should we go to the Emergency Center?
This is always a hard question to answer. If someone has a question about if they need to go to the EC, their primary care doctor can often give some guidance. And when in doubt, it’s probably good to come in and be evaluated. Afterall, that’s why we’re here. We want to help.
While small burns can be treated at home, larger burns should be seen in the Emergency Center, especially if they are over a joint. Small cuts can be cleaned and bandaged, but larger cuts should be seen, or any cut that won’t stop bleeding.
I know when my kids get hurt, they tend to be pretty dramatic initially, but then they move on and forget about it. If your child is continuing to complain about an injury or not walking, they should probably be seen by a doctor.
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report.