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Holiday Safetyby Susan McElrath
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From now until New Year's Day there are all sorts of things to celebrate. Unfortunately, decorations, food, and alcohol all present dangers, particularly to young children. A few common-sense precautions can help keep your holidays safe and happy.
Candles, colored lights, Christmas trees, artificial snow, and plants add a lot of beauty to festive occasions. Unfortunately, young children (pets, too!) often like to play with these. Kids may even try to taste these lovely decorations, or experiment with that candle flame. Make sure decorations are kid-safe or out of reach. Watch out especially for small ornaments, button batteries, and festive yet poisonous plants such as mistletoe, poinsettia, and Jerusalem cherry. (Hard or chewy candy can choke children, so keep it away from them, too.)
Candles are also popular, but don't let yours go up in smoke! Speaking of candles, have you ever let one get too close to some greenery, paper, or a tablecloth? You know what can happen. Keep an eye on those candles. Never leave them burning unattended, and never place them too close to other objects. (Light candles only in containers meant for lighted candles--many candles are not meant to be lit in their original, usually decorative, containers.) Keep those lighters and matches out of children's reach, too.
If you use outdoor lights, make sure they're approved for outdoor use. For indoor and outdoor lights, inspect them for broken or missing bulbs, and check the cords for fraying before you use them. Don't place cords where they can trip people, and don't run them under furniture, rugs, carpeting or other objects, or around doors and windows.
A crackling fire in the fireplace is a welcome sight. Keep yours safe. Make sure the fireplace and chimney are clean when you begin using it each year. Call a professional to clean and inspect your flue. Keep the area in front of the fireplace free of combustible material, and use a screen to keep sparks from flying out. Again, keep young children and pets away from the fireplace.
There's plenty to eat during the holiday season. Unfortunately eating food that isn't prepared right or that has been sitting around too long can turn happiness to misery. Foodborne illness can make you very sick. It can also kill. You should always be aware of food safety precautions and follow them no matter what time of year. If you are hosting a celebration, be sure to follow safe handling, cooking, and re-heating practices, especially for meats and eggs. These precautions can usually be found printed on the food packages and in published literature, such as cookbooks or health department brochures. Don't take a chance by eating food that is not fully cooked, seems to have been sitting out too long, or that contains raw eggs--not even cookie dough!. The risk of serious illness is just not worth it.
Many holiday celebrations include alcohol consumption. If you do drink, never drink and drive. Watch out for guests and make sure everyone is riding with a sober driver. Provide plenty of alternatives to alcohol such as soft drinks, coffee, tea, and cocoa. Stop serving alcohol a few hours before your party ends. Also, never leave drinks around where youngsters and pets can get them. Alcohol can make them very sick. Collect used glasses and cups quickly and lock up your supply.
Finally, make sure your home is equipped with smoke detectors and, if your home uses a fossil fuel heat source, carbon monoxide detectors. Test the batteries frequently--some people find it helpful to replace the batteries twice a year when Daylight Savings Time begins and ends. If your home has been vacant for several days test the detector batteries when you return. The low-battery alarm may have sounded while you were away and could be silent when you return. The battery may be dead and you won't know unless you check. Don't let accidents spoil your holidays. Plan now to play it safe this year and every year.Happy Holidays!