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How to protect your child from holiday hazards

BIRMINGHAM (Dec. 20, 2021) – The holidays can be a fun and festive time to spend with family, but they also bring potential hazards that can lead to injuries if you’re not careful. 

Alicia Webb, M.D., a physician in the Children’s of Alabama Department of Emergency Medicine, says you can avoid getting hurt as long as you pay close attention. 

“Prevention is the key to helping with those injuries, and so make sure that you are aware of the different dangers that things pose and make sure that you are acting on that front end to avoid any serious injury or danger to your children,” Webb said. 

Holiday gifts

Toys are fun for children, but some can be dangerous if not used properly. Toys with button batteries are an example. Webb said batteries are extremely dangerous if swallowed or put in noses or ears. She recommends checking battery-operated toys to make sure the batteries haven’t gone missing. If you have extras, make sure they’re stored away. 

It’s also important to buy age-appropriate toys, and keep children away from toys that may not be suitable for them. This is particularly important for parents with multiple children. 

“If a toy is bought for the older child—and that may be appropriate for them—remember that your younger child is around, and help that older child to pick up those small pieces when they’re done playing with them,” Webb said. She also recommends supervising the younger children to make sure they don’t grab any of the small pieces. 

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Larger gifts can also create hazards. Webb said it’s not unusual for children to arrive at the emergency department over the holidays with broken bones after trying out new scooters, bikes or hoverboards. 

“It’s always a good reminder to make sure that if you’re going to be giving a child something like that to make sure to give them a helmet and some protective gear, as well,” Webb said. “And make sure to remind kids to wear that helmet and protective gear any time they’re on anything with wheels or that they can fall off of.” 

Holiday food 

There’s a good chance you’ll have a lot of food out on the table at some point this holiday season, and that food may not always be safe for your child. Hot liquids, for example, should be far enough away from the edge of the table or stove that your child can’t reach them. It’s also smart to watch your child closely when they’re around a hot oven or stove. 

Small foods pose a risk for younger children. Grapes and nuts are choking hazards, so you should make sure children are supervised if you have those or any other small foods out. 

Holiday driving 

With many people traveling and shopping, driving can be more hazardous during the holidays, so if you have a teen, it’s wise to remind them of this. 

“There’s always a lot of cars on the road, so make sure you’re planning ahead so you’re not rushing and speeding,” Webb said. 

If you’re taking a child with you, it’s important to remember car seat safety. Webb said car seats are not designed for use with puffy coats. Those can make the car seat straps looser, and your child won’t be as safe. 

“Put them in the car seat in just their thin clothes, and then after you’ve buckled them in, put that coat or blanket over the top of that on top of the straps, not below,” Webb advised. 

Heating safety 

Cold weather brings several safety risks, especially for people who need extra heating sources. If you’re using a gas stove or a space heater, be mindful that they can cause fires or carbon monoxide poisoning. Webb also recommends making sure your decorations are flame-resistant and keeping heating elements away from decorations. If you decorate your home with lights, make sure there’s not an electrical short or any kind of spark that might ignite the house. You should also make sure to turn off all holiday lights before leaving the house or going to bed.