6 tips to ensure a safe holiday for the family

Baby Christmas TreeIt doesn't take long for Dr. David Monroe to rattle off any number of holiday hazards for babies, toddlers and even teenagers that often result in trips to the emergency room this time of year.

When it comes to common safety and health problems during the holidays, the director of the Children's Care Center at Howard County General Hospital is a bit of an expert; he's in the emergency department day in and day out.

Here are Monroe's top six hazards parents need to keep in mind during the holiday season.

  1. Poisonous plants – Holly berries, mistletoe and poinsettias can cause sickness in children. If you think your child may have ingested what you are worried is one of these plants, call the Maryland Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.
  2. Fireplaces – Monroe sees many kids each winter with burns from the glass doors and screens of fireplaces. Watch children around fireplaces and avoid putting wrapping paper in the fireplace because it causes an intense heat, he says.
  3. Button batteries and other choking hazards – Beware of small pieces from older children's toys, especially button batteries, which are very dangerous when swallowed. It's a busy time and accidents can easily happen, Monroe says.
  4. Ornament injuries – Glass ornaments and kids don't mix. Ornaments are easily broken and can cut hands and feet.
  5. Visiting others – When traveling with babies and toddlers, keep in mind that relatives' homes may not be childproofed, Monroe says.
  6. Mental health issues – The holidays can be stressful for parents and teenagers. “We have to prepare the staff because we know we are going to see a lot more teenagers with mental health concerns over the the holidays,” Monroe says about the emergency department. Teens are away from friends and support groups and spending more time with family, which can be stressful, he says.

By Betsy Stein

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