• When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.”
• When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness because a fresh tree is less of a fire hazard. The tree should be green, needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk butt should be sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
• Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will help to keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
• When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and don’t allow it to block doorways.
• Be sure to keep the stand filled with water, because heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly.
• Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
• Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use. To hold lights in place, string them through hooks or insulated staples, not nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them.
• Check all tree lights-even if you’ve just purchased them-before hanging them on your tree. Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
• Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
• Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
• Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals.
• Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
• In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
• Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass “angel hair.” Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
• Remove all wrapping papers, bags, paper, ribbons and bows from tree and fireplace areas after gifts are opened. These items can pose suffocation and choking hazards to a small child, or can cause a fire if near flame.
• Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards for younger children.
• Before buying a toy or allowing your child to play with a toy that he has received as a gift, read the instructions carefully.
• To prevent both burns and electrical shocks, don’t give young children (under age ten) a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy toys that are battery-operated.
• Children under age three can choke on small parts contained in toys or games. Government regulations specify that toys for children under age three cannot have parts less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.
• Children under age 8 can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Remove strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children.
• Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length. They could be a strangulation hazard for babies.
• Bacteria are often present in raw foods. Fully cook meats and poultry, and thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruits.
• Be sure to keep hot liquids and foods away from the edges of counters and tables, where they can be easily knocked over by a young child’s exploring hands.
• Wash your hands frequently, and make sure your children do the same.
• Never put a spoon used to taste food back into food without washing it.
• Always keep raw foods and cooked foods separate, and use separate utensils when preparing them.
• Always thaw meat in the refrigerator, never on the countertop.
• Foods that require refrigeration should never be left at room temperature for more than two hours.
• Monitor your children’s intake of holiday sweets. It’s okay to let them indulge for a special occasion, but be sure to balance it out with healthier food choices the rest of the time.
• Clean up immediately after a holiday party. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco.
• Remember that the homes you visit may not be childproofed. Keep an eye out for danger spots.
• Keep a laminated list with all of the important phone numbers you or a baby-sitter are likely to need in case of an emergency. Include the police and fire department, your pediatrician and the poison control center.
• Ask your neighbor if he has a gun before sending your kids over to play. If the answer is yes, you need to make absolutely sure that all guns are stored unloaded and locked – ideally in a gun safe – with ammunition locked separately. Include the question along with other things you might normally discuss before sending your child to someone’s house.
• Traveling, visiting family members, getting presents, shopping, etc., can all increase your child’s stress levels. Sticking to your child’s usual routines, including sleep schedules and timing of naps, can help you and your child enjoy the holidays and reduce stress.
• Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorated from fireplace area. Check to see that flue is open.
• Use care with “fire salts,” which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
• Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.