Mistletoe Mishaps


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Parental guidance required to keep holidays safe for children

Published on Tuesday, December 4, 2018

By: Annie Oeth

A trip to the emergency room is a holiday surprise no family wants.

Elizabeth Foster

Being aware of some of the dangers that come along with seasonal traditions, travel and gift-giving can help families have a healthy holiday as well as a happy one, said Elizabeth Foster, project manager of Safe Kids MS, a safety and community outreach program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“Holidays are exciting times of year for little ones, but they’re also a time when children can be at risk for injuries,” Foster said.

Each year, about 217,000 children are treated at hospital emergency rooms nationwide for toy-related injuries, according to Safe Kids MS and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Riding toys such as tricycles and scooters are cited in the majority of toy-related injuries.

“Enjoying a riding toy is part of the joy of childhood,” said Foster, “but when Santa gives a child a riding toy, a safety helmet should be under the tree as well.”

Portrait of Dr. Benjamin Dillard

Dr. Benjamin Dillard, chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Batson Children’s Hospital, said a little caution can go a long way during the holidays and throughout the year.

“Our biggest safety concerns over the holidays revolve around trampolines, fireworks and gifts with wheels – ATVs, motorcycles, bicycles, scooters – even inline skates,” Dillard said. “Proper safety equipment and following the rules for use are essential to minimizing the risk of serious injury.“

Holiday decorations, ranging from thirsty Christmas trees to plants such as poinsettias and mistletoe that could be toxic, can also pose dangers. Traveling and staying away from home can bring a new set of safety challenges along with the joy of family togetherness.

These additional tips from Safe Kids MS can help keep the holiday season injury-free:

• Check car seats before holiday travel. As many as 73 percent of car seats are not used or installed correctly, so before hitting the road, check the car seats. Follow Safe Kids MS’ quick car seat checklist.

• Bulky coats and car seats don’t mix. If it’s cold outside, cover babies and young children with a thick blanket to keep them warm after they’re been strapped securely into their seats. Bulky winter clothes and coats can keep a car seat from doing its job.

• Find the perfect toy for the right age. Consider the child’s age when purchasing a toy or game this holiday season. Before settling on the perfect toy, check to make sure there aren’t any small parts or other potential choking hazards.

• Keep button batteries away from young children. Keep a special eye on small pieces, including button batteries that may be included in electronic toys. While these games are great for older children and teenagers, they can pose a potential danger for their younger, curious siblings.

• Make sure the home has a carbon monoxide alarm. As with smoke alarms, install a carbon monoxide alarm on every level of the home, especially near sleeping areas, and keep them at least 15 feet away from fuel-burning appliances.

• Plan for safe sleep. For those whose holiday travel plans mean spending the night somewhere other than home, make sure babies have a safe place to sleep. While you’re at it, make sure the accommodation include a working carbon monoxide alarm and smoke alarm.

• Decorate trees with children in mind. Children are curious and will want to play with the ornaments on the tree, so some preparation is needed. Move ornaments that are breakable or have metal hooks toward the top of the tree; that makes room at the bottom of the tree for ornaments that are safer for younger children.

• Blow out candles and store matches out of reach. Keep holiday candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and don’t forget to blow them out when leaving the room or before going to sleep. Make a habit of placing matches and lighters in a safe place out of children's reach.

• Keep harmful plants away from children and pets. Plants can spruce up holiday decorating, but keep those that may be poisonous out of reach. This includes mistletoe berries, holly berries and Jerusalem cherries. In a poison emergency, call 1- 800-222-1222 to reach the Mississippi Poison Control Center at UMMC.