Top 3 Dangers to Watch for This Holiday Season

Most folks look forward to the holiday season. It’s a time for family and friends, parties and gatherings, treats and delights.

But Dr. Robert Lapus M.D., UTHealth emergency medicine physician and medical director of emergency services at Children’s Memorial Hermann Memorial City and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, urges everyone to keep safety top of mind as well. Here are a few of the holiday safety trouble spots to watch out for this holiday season.

Danger No. 1: Poisons

It’s usually the things that look fun, pretty or tasty that gets kids into trouble.
Mom’s colorful cocktail; Grandpa’s candy-colored medication; bright-hued plants in red and green – all of these things and more can be tempting, but extremely dangerous, to children. Keep reading to find out how to keep your kids safe.

Electronic cigarettes
Electronic cigarettes

Vaping liquid poisonings are on the rise.

Children’s Memorial Hermann emergency centers are seeing more children who have ingested vaping liquids.  Vaping is an alternative to smoking that uses liquid nicotine, or e-liquids, instead of traditional tobacco.  Often the e-liquids are colorful and fragrant, which can be very tempting to young children. Vaping liquids can be extremely harmful to small children.  If ingested, just a small amount of e-liquid can trigger nausea and vomiting, or worse, death.  If you use vaping liquids, be sure to keep them secured and out of the reach of little fingers.

Alcoholic drinks left unattended pose a risk to children.

Alcohol depresses a child’s central nervous system and causes low blood sugar. If consumed by children, alcohol can trigger seizures and send them into a coma. If consumed in mass quantities, alcohol can be deadly.  So how do you prevent accidental alcohol poisoning at holiday gatherings?  Don’t leave unfinished drinks sitting around. Collect and pour them out often. Don’t wait to clean up in the morning – your kids may wake up before you do.  Keep alcohol containers locked up, or out of children’s reach. If they are old enough, talk with your kids about these dangers.

Ingesting holiday foliage can make children and pets sick.

In the past, holiday plants such as poinsettias, mistletoe, and holly berries have received a reputation as potentially fatal if ingested. While intentional ingestion of large amounts of these plants can be serious, recent studies have shown that the most common side effects of accidental ingestion of these plants or berries is irritation of the mouth and a stomach ache with vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration.

What to do in case of accidental poisonings.

Any time a child ingests something poisonous or dangerous, call poison control immediately at 1-800-222-1222. Do not try to make your child vomit the poison “back up.”

Danger No. 2: Fire

Christmas deocrations

A blazing fire in the fireplace is a sure sign of the holidays, but it’s also the time of year when more fire-related accidents occur. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to go over your family’s fire escape plan.

For those who ‘Deck the halls,’ Christmas trees can pose a fire hazard.

  • When choosing an artificial Christmas tree, look for one labeled “fire resistant.”
  • If you prefer a live tree, be sure to keep it properly watered.
  • Turn the lights off at night and when you’re not going to be home.
  • Always keep flammable items – like candles – away from trees.

Sometimes it actually does get cold in Houston, so please heat your house safely. Avoid improper use of hair dryers, ovens, and stoves to heat your home.

Being indoors more during the holidays can expose you and your family to the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can inadvertently happen while trying to heat a home.  Heed these safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Danger No. 3: Driving under the influence or while distracted

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 30 people in the United States die daily in motor vehicle collisions that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 51 minutes. This number goes up dramatically during the holidays.

It can’t be said enough – take care of yourself, your loved ones and those around you by never driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Have a designated driver or call a cab – the risk of injury is too great.

Additionally, in this busy season, it is easy to get distracted with text messages while trying to make plans. Don’t text and drive. #itcanwait

We wish you and your family a safe, healthy and happy holiday!

Tashika Varma