By Elizabeth Fisher
The holidays are a time filled with fun, family and festivities, but all those indoor activities, decorations and cooking can hold some hidden dangers, particularly for children. “Every holiday season we see children who have been injured in an accident at home and the result can be years of treatment and ongoing care,” said Robert Sheridan, M.D., assistant chief of staff and medical director of the burn service at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston. “Many of these accidents are preventable, so along with caring for children, part of our mission is to educate the public on ways to keep the entire family safe.”
Shriners Hospitals for Children recently conducted a survey and found that many people do not follow key fire and burn safety tips during the holidays. One of the biggest hazards in your home could be your Christmas tree. The National Fire Protection Agency reports one in forty Christmas tree fires results in death. Whether you scour a faraway field for that perfect fir or grab the first one you see at the local market, Christmas tree care is important. While the Shriners Hospitals for Children survey found that 70 percent of people know trees need to be watered daily, only 45 percent said they actually do. A few other things to keep in mind include:
- Keep trees away from heaters and flames
- Inspect lights for bare wires, frays or kinks
- Never use indoor lights outside
- Discard tree when dry
Cooking injuries are some of the most common this time of year, with doctors seeing an uptick in burns from kitchen fires, scalds and other accidents. Two of the best tips to keep your kitchen safe this holiday season are to turn pot handles to the back of the stove out of children’s reach and keep a cookie sheet on hand to extinguish a potential fire. Other holiday cooking tips are:
- Keep kids out of the kitchen when oven and/or stove top are in use
- Check who or what is underfoot before you transfer hot pots and pans
- Keep an eye on what you fry
- Wear short sleeves or roll sleeves up when cooking
Candles add a little extra sparkle to holiday décor, but 25 percent of people surveyed admit they leave candles unattended and slightly more said they leave candles in reach of children. When you are decorating, consider using battery-operated flameless candles. If you do use lit candles, keep them in stable holders away from children, pets and flammable objects.
As you make your holiday lists and check them twice, take a minute to make sure your family is prepared in case of a fire emergency. That means ensuring smoke detectors are working properly, there is a fire extinguisher on hand, and you have practiced your family’s home evacuation plan.
Taking just a few minutes and few precautions can help keep your family safe and free to enjoy the wonder of the season. If an accident does happen and you or someone in your family is burned:
- Always call for emergency assistance if necessary
- If there are flames, first, smother (Stop, drop and roll if necessary)
- Cool the burn with water, NOT ice
- Remove any affected clothing, diapers, jewelry or shoes
- Do not apply any creams until seen by a doctor
- Do not break blisters until seen by a doctor
- Cover the burn with a clean, dry dressing and seek medical help
To learn more about holiday burn and fire prevention visit BurnAwareness.org.
Elizabeth Fisher is the public relations manager at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston.