The winter holiday season is a time for celebration, but also a time when hazards appear in the home. These categories of potential poisonings are your guide to keep your holidays safe.
Common holiday plants such as poinsettias and mistletoe are generally harmless, but could cause discomfort or nausea if they are ingested. Berries from mistletoe or holly can be harmful if many of them are eaten, and they are very attractive to children. If you suspect that a child has eaten leaves or berries from a holiday plant, call your regional poison center hotline: 1-800-222-1222. Do not induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by the Poison Control Center.
Careful handling and extra caution should be used with some holiday decorations, including:
- Christmas tree ornaments
- Christmas tree preservatives
- Snow sprays: be sure to have the room well ventilated when you spray snow sprays in your home
- Fireplace colored crystals: keep these crystals away from children
If you suspect a toxic effect from these decorations, call your regional poison center hotline immediately: 1-800-222-1222.
Wrapping paper, batteries, and snow scene globes require caution around infants and small children. The foil and colored gift wrap may contain lead, and water in snow globes is not safe to drink. Don't allow children to chew on decorative paper or gift wrap.
Batteries can be especially dangerous. Discard old batteries, which can leak and cause burns. Keep children away from small "button" batteries — these are very easy to swallow and can cause serious harm.
If you suspect an encounter with a poisoning from seasonal gift wrapping, call your regional poison center hotline immediately: 1-800-222-1222.
Exercise caution when children are present. Cigarette butts and cigars left unattended can be chewed by children, resulting in nicotine poisoning. Always discard partial glasses of alcoholic drinks so children will not be tempted to drink them. Take care when baking: extracts, such as vanilla and almond, contain alcohol.
If you suspect a child has ingested alcohol call your regional poison center hotline immediately: 1-800-222-1222.
Food Safety Tips
Washing your hands and cleaning the food preparation area and cooking utensils are the most important things you can do to prevent food poisoning. Also, if food is kept at room temperature for 2 hours or longer, bacteria can multiply. Leftover turkey can be safely refrigerated for 3 to 5 days, but gravy and stuffing should be eaten in 1 or 2 days.
If you suspect food poisoning, call your regional poison center hotline immediately: 1-800-222-1222.
Holiday Visitors with Medications
Visitors may carry their medications and cosmetics in purses and suitcases. Children's natural curiosity can create a dangerous situation. Offer guests a locked cabinet for their medications. Also, be mindful that the homes of friends and relatives may not be poison-proof, particularly if children do not usually live there.
If you suspect an accidental poisoning, call your regional poison center hotline immediately: 1-800-222-1222.