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Hidden Holiday Hazards For Kids

December 22, 2008

Kansas City, MO - Uplifting as the holidays can be, they are fraught with hidden dangers for children, some of which can be avoided by following some simple tips, according to those who respond to health emergencies. Dangers include toys, toxins, trees and travel and families are being urged this year to look out for these potential hazards.

Dr. Laura Fitzmaurice, chief of emergency medical services for Children’s Mercy Hospital and Clinics, advises parents to be watchful of holiday decorations that can pose a risk, be aware of toxins such as poinsettia berries, and keep allergy medication on hand. She also suggests checking that gifts are safe and age-appropriate, and maintaining a little common sense when things get chaotic.

"We need a time out; we need to take a deep breath here, because even though you have good common sense, you get so rushed you forget things."

Dr. Fitzmaurice asks families to take extra care when traveling in wintry weather. She adds, it’s good to assign buddies when visiting other homes over the holidays and important to keep an eye on all the gifts lying around that aren’t meant for children.

"The little kids are running around and that’s when they get into things and get injured or they’re trying to play with something that's may be outside their realm of capability, and get injured."

The ER will typically see injuries related to outdoor activities, such as sledding, says Dr. Fitzmaurice, who adds, another common injury comes when kids eat or drink something they shouldn't.

"Probably the most common is alcohol, because the parents have left out drinks from a party and children are very susceptible to low-blood sugar."

The holidays often mean increased exposure to respiratory illness - the cold, which can be minimized by simply reminding everyone to wash their hands often. Most childhood injuries are predictable and preventable, says Dr. Fitzmaurice, by taking a few extra steps for safety.

The emergency room at Children’s Mercy treats about 150 injuries between Christmas and New Year’s.

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MO