Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

Holiday Hazards to Children, Pets and You

From chestnuts roasting on open fire to Jack Frost nipping at your nose, the holiday season is rapidly approaching. Children are laughing, people are passing, meeting smile after smile, and on every street corner you hear ... you probably know the rest of that song, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwaanza or any other event. But along with the same songs repeated 38,000 times over and the warm fuzzies that the holidays bring comes a host of unique holiday hazards you and your family must be aware of, and six very wise steps to avoid them:

  1. Make Your Christmas Tree a Pleasure, Not a Danger: With Christmas trees causing an average 400 fires a year, 80 deaths, 10 injuries, and $15 million in property damage, it is worth your time to make sure your tree keeps things merry and bright by following these safety steps:
    • When purchasing a fresh tree, look for one with branches that bend easily (pine or spruce). This indicates freshness and that it won't burn easily.

    • Make sure your fresh tree has plenty of water for as long as it's on display inside your home. Your tree should also fit firmly in its stand (so children and pets can't knock it over). We also advise you to keep your tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces or radiators.

    • Trim low branches so they don't poke small children in the eye.

    • Place small ornaments, candy canes and artificial fruits securely toward the top of your tree. These items are potential choking hazards and should be kept out of the reach of children and pets.

    • Be very cautious using tinsel ("Icicles") if you have pets or children. They are not poisonous, but can cause intestinal obstruction and choking.

    • Avoid breakable ornaments, especially if you have young children or pets in your home. If an ornament should break, be sure to pick up all the pieces and dispose of them.
    • NEVER put real candles on your tree. This is asking for an accident.

    • If you opt for an artificial tree, make sure it is flame-retardant.

    If you have young children or pets in the home, metal ornaments like these snow-folks -- just $2.02 each at Amazon -- area a better choice than easily breakable glass ornaments.  Place your smaller ornaments higher on the tree; beyond the reach of pets and young children.

  2. Keep Kids and Pets Away From These Common Holiday Toxins. The holidays call forth a number of (surprising) toxins into people's homes that can cause serious harm, particularly to children and pets:

    • Mistletoe: It's certainly safe to kiss under it, but don't let your kids or pets consume it. Mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens) can be poisonous, leading to stomach and intestinal irritation. When consumed in large quantities, mistletoe can lower blood pressure and even slow your pulse to dangerous levels.

    • Holly Berries: Eating these berries upsets the stomach and can result in nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Serious problems develop if a child has eaten 20 or more berries.

    • Jerusalem Cherry Plant: This is probably the most dangerous and toxic holiday plant of all. When ingested, the solanine in the plant causes vomiting, diarrhea, slow heart rate, low blood pressure and depressed breathing. Consuming this plant can also induce coma.

    • Other Potentially Harmful Plants popular around the holidays include wild arum, yew, amaryllis and poinsettias. Children and pets should avoid consuming these items, even balsam, juniper, cedar, pine and fir have very low levels of toxicity.

    • Artificial Snow Spray can harm the lungs, eyes and more, so use and store very cautiously.

    • Fire Salts and Color Sprays have moderate levels of toxicity, causing gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, and in severe cases convulsions, so keep them away from children and pets (especially their mouths).

  3. Be Merry but WISE With Your Fireplace. If you have a fireplace, it's nice to lounge in front of it to chat, open gifts, watch the snow fall outside or fall asleep. But this peaceful scene can come to a crashing halt if you aren't smart:

    • Have your chimney inspected once a year and always keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

    • If you are going to hang stocking above the fireplace, make sure they are hung WELL ABOVE the fireplace and its flames.

    • While it may seem easy to simply toss the leftover wrapping paper from presents into the fireplace don't! Wrapping paper can contain metallic materials, that when burned, excrete toxic chemicals into the air.

    • NEVER dispose of wreaths or evergreens in the fireplace. By doing so, you will create a flash fire and smoke up the entire room.

    • Be sure your room is well ventilated before starting a fire.

  4. Candles Add Beautiful Ambiance to the Holidays, but Be Cautious With Them! Although candles can bring a cozy and romantic atmosphere to any holiday setting, there are many hazards that may occur if candles are not handled properly.



    Candles inside containers like these above versus freestanding wax tend to be safer. These "L'Occitane Scented Candles" (which come in unique, Provencal scents) burn for around 20 hours, and come with a safe, nontoxic wick.
    Read More Now.

    • Do not place candles near flammable items such as trees, boughs and curtains. NEVER place candles on your Christmas tree!

    • If you are going to light candles around your home, NEVER leave your child alone in a room with one. Keep candles out of children's reach - and your pets' reach - even if you are near them. It only takes a split second ...

    • When leaving your home or going to bed, make sure you blow out all of the lit candles around your house


  5. Hang Your Holiday Lights with Care. The glowing, flashing, twinkling holiday lights can add festive cheer to a home … or in some excessive cases make it look like Las Vegas after a tornado. But the risks of bad taste aside, here is how to avoid the real safety risks that holiday lights can pose:

    • Check each set, whether it's new or old, for broken wires, chewed or worn cords or cracked sockets. These are serious fire hazards.

    • Make sure the light and extension cords are untangled and cannot easily tangle: tangled cords can choke babies and pets.

    • DO NOT put electronic lights on a metallic tree, as it may become charged and shock anyone who encounters it.

    • Be sure the lights you use to decorate the outside of your house have been approved for outside use ... read the box, as they are required to indicate this. If you aren't sure, don't use them.

    • If you are leave your home or go to bed, be sure to turn off all of your holiday lights while sleeping or away (you'll also save on your energy bill).

    • Don't have more than three standard-size light sets per one extension cord.

  6. Enjoy Holiday Bashes But Avoid these Party "Crashes:" The holiday season is an excellent excuse to have a little fun and perhaps go a bit overboard on all the delicious holiday foods. Just make sure that during and after the feasting and fun, you are wary of these potential hazards.

    • Alcoholic beverages left out after holiday parties can also pose a risk to children and pets. Consuming even the smallest amount of alcohol can lower a child's blood pressure, blood sugar and body temperature and depress breathing.

    • Make sure any sharp or small bones from a turkey or chicken dinner are out of reach of small children and pets, as they are serious choking hazards.

    • Keep hard candies and nuts (frequently placed on tables as munchies) away from small children who may choke on them.

    • Designate an area outside your home for smokers, as second-hand smoke is bad for anyone, especially children.

And finally, if you will be roasting chestnuts on an open fire this holiday season (does anybody do this anymore?), it is wise to roast them on an open fire located outside your home ;)

These gourmet steamed chestnuts are safer than roasting chestnuts on an open fire! At $12.80 for 12.5 ounces they better be. (at - click here to read more)


USFA: Factsheets - Holiday Tree Fire Hazards

UAB Health System | Plants (holiday, poison protection) 

Holiday Hazards

Don't Make Holidays a Ho-Ho-Horror

Holiday Hazards: Keep Your Little One Safe This Season

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This