Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention offers tips for safe holiday season
Poison prevention tips
November 22, 2006
Cozy fires, family gatherings, decorations and gifts are all part of what makes the holiday season so special. But these traditions introduce new objects to the home that can be hazardous to small children. As the holiday season approaches, the Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention reminds caregivers to update patient families about poison prevention, ensuring that every family has a happy, safe holiday season.
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
CO is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that's created from burning fuel. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
- Have a professional technician inspect the gas-burning appliances, and venting and chimney systems in your home at the beginning of each winter.
- Make sure appliances and chimneys have proper airflow.
- Don't use the oven or gas range for heating your home, and never let the fireplace or space heater run while you sleep.
- After a snowfall, be sure to shovel around the home heater's exterior ventilation areas.
- Check vehicle exhaust pipes and don't leave children in a car while it's running.
- Store kerosene and gasoline out of the reach (and sight) of children.
Antifreeze is a common automotive product that can cause severe poisoning or even death if swallowed.
- Always store antifreeze in its original container. Because antifreeze is sweet, children may drink it.
- Keep antifreeze and windshield washer fluid in a locked cabinet.
Decorations and Gifts
- Avoid using holly berries and mistletoe if you have young children in the home. These plants can be poisonous if swallowed. Neither Christmas cacti nor poinsettias are poisonous if eaten, but they may cause mild stomach upset. Also, the sap of the Poinsettia plant can cause a skin rash.
- Be sure Christmas trees are secure in their stands. Hang breakable ornaments high on tree branches
- Keep ornaments out of children's reach. Heirloom and/or older ornaments may contain lead; angel hair and glitter can irritate the eyes and skin; and aerosol products, such as artificial snow, should not be used without proper ventilation.
- Keep snow globes out of the reach of children, since they're made of plastic and calcium carbonate. If a leak occurs and a child ingests the fluid, there is a chance of poisoning.
- Be sure candles are out of children's reach. Keep an eye on lit candles and put them out as soon as they get low. Most importantly, be sure to blow them out before going to bed.
- Keep all oil lamps out of children's reach since oils come in a variety of soft-drink colors. If swallowed, lamp oil is drawn into the lungs from coughing, which can lead to pneumonia. Even lamp oil that is spilled can be aspirated.
- Other common holiday items to keep away from children include bubble lights, batteries and air freshener sprays.
- Keep all tobacco out of reach of children and empty ashtrays promptly. Consuming tobacco products in small amounts can cause nausea and vomiting--even convulsions.
- Remember that ethanol is the main ingredient (often 50 percent or more) in cologne, perfume, aftershave and mouthwash. These items, packaged in colorful bottles, can be appealing to children. Just two ounces of perfume can cause severe poisoning in a young child.
- Offer guests a locked cabinet in which to store their medicine, so children can't access it.
- When traveling with children, check your new surroundings carefully and move pills, vitamins, medicines, cosmetics and cleaning products out of their reach.
- When attending holiday gatherings, be sure to inform your hosts about your children's food allergies.
- Clean up from parties before going to bed, as children could access leftover food and alcohol left unattended on low tables.
If you suspect a poisoning, it's important to act fast and act smart! First, call the Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention's emergency hotline at 1-800-222-1222.
Chemical poisons like cleaners, on the skin, should be rinsed or washed off with lots of tap water immediately to avoid irritation and burns.
For inhalation of poisonous fumes, get the child outside into fresh air as quickly as possible. If there is any question about her ability to breathe, call 911 first and then the poison center.
When eye exposures occur, rinsing with low pressure, lukewarm water for 15 minutes is advised. With young children, use water from the sink or an adult can carry them into the shower and encourage them to blink in the water. There is no need to force the eye open.
Finally, if poison is ingested do not administer syrup of ipecac or home activated charcoal. These can cause injury if administered improperly.
For further information please call the Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention, serving Massachusetts and Rhode Island at 1-800-222-1222 or visit www.MARIpoisoncenter.org.
Children's Hospital Boston is the nation's leading pediatric medical center, offering a complete range of health services for patients from birth through age 21. It is home to the world's premier pediatric research facility and is the primary pediatric teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. Children's physicians provide specialty care at Children's Hospital Boston at Waltham and sites throughout Eastern Massachusetts, including outpatient care at Children's specialty care centers in Peabody and Lexington, Caritas Norwood Hospital, and Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, and inpatient, outpatient and emergency services at Beverly Hospital, MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, South Shore Hospital in South Weymouth, and Winchester Hospital. For more information about the hospital visit: www.childrenshospital.org/newsroom.
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Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention serving Massachusetts and Rhode Island