Deck the Halls Safely This Season


The holidays are a time for spending with family and friends, not rushing to the emergency room. Whether you’re preparing to decorate your own home, or going to visit relatives or friends, keep the following tips in mind to help everyone have a merry and safe holiday.

If you decorate a tree, avoid these top decorating mistakes:

  • Decorate with children in mind. Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them.
  • Keep the glass ornaments off the tree until children are older as they can be easily broken.

  • Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level, and keep lights out of reach.
  • Natural Christmas trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times.
  • Do not put the tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent.
  • Never leave a lit Christmas tree or other decorative lighting display unattended.
  • Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets.
  • Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.
  • Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.
  • Sweep up pine needles as they can cause cuts in the mouths and throats of children who swallow them.
  • Ornament hangers can be a choking hazard, and may cause cuts when infants and toddlers crawl over them.

When you’re in the kitchen or dining room, keep a few things in mind:

  • Visit with family and friends outside the kitchen – too many people can cause distractions and it’s easy to forget to grab a hot pad before moving a hot pan.
  • Keep alcohol, including baking extracts, out of reach and do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended.
  • Don’t leave bowls of nuts or hard candies out if young children are present. They can be a choking hazard.
  • Never carry a burning pan to get it out of the house. If you have a grease fire smother the flames with a metal lid, loads of baking soda, a WET towel/blanket or an ABC or Class B fire extinguisher.
  • If you have a tablecloth, runner or other low-hanging fabric – be careful that infants and toddlers don’t try to grab it to pull themselves up.
  • Hot liquids like soup or even gravy can scald so be careful when passing. And help kids resist the temptation to drink hot cocoa until it is cool enough for them to drink safely.

When you’re decking the halls, burns and poisoning are a very real danger. To help prevent them:

  • Store color additives used in fireplace fires out of reach as they are a toxic substance.
  • Use artificial snow in a well-vented space as it can be harmful if inhaled.
  • Make sure mistletoe berries, Holly Berry and Jerusalem Cherry are placed where children and pets cannot reach them.
  • Store cleaning supplies out of reach, particularly if you will have guests with young children visiting.

In a poison emergency, call the national Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222

When you’re singing songs by the fire:

  • Safety gates around the fireplace can help prevent young children from getting too close.
  • Fire grates can get hot and cause burns. Use a protective glove when moving the grate and don’t let children get too close.
  • Keep hands and objects away from glass fireplace doors. They can reach temps of 200 to 600 degrees in just minutes and stay hot for hours.
  • Keep candles out of reach and away from table edges.
  • If wood and pellet burning stoves are used, don’t place objects on them and be careful where you touch.

When you’re traveling over the river and through the woods, make the visit a little safer:

  • Pack coats and protective gear in the car – even if it’s just a trip across town. If anything goes wrong you’ll have protection (and be prepared if there’s an opportunity to go sledding).
  • Keep your phone charged so you have it in case of emergency.
  • If you have little ones, keep in mind grandparents, relatives or friends may not have childproofed homes.


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