By Kevin Borrup, JD, MPA, Associate Director, Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center
Most injuries are predictable and preventable and we want you and your family to stay safe, happy and injury free this holiday season. Take precautions to ensure that your holiday plans are not interrupted by a visit to the emergency room. We have assembled some quick tips for what you can do to prevent injuries to you, your children, and family and friends this holiday season.
Motor Vehicle Crashes
Last December drunk driving crashes resulted in 840 deaths across the nation. Buckle up and make sure all your passengers are appropriately restrained.
• Do not drink and drive, and do not let friends drive impaired.
• Remind all your guests to designate their sober driver.
• The safest place for children is in the back seat.
• Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in a crash by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers aged 1 to 4.
Christmas Tree Fires
Christmas Trees are a big part of the holiday season for many families. Unfortunately, they are also the source for approximately 250 home fires each year. So, take precautions to keep your family safe.
• If you have a natural tree, keep it watered, and never leave lights on when you are: not home, not in the room, or sleeping. If you have an artificial tree, use the same precautions by turning the lights off before you go to bed and when you are not home.
• Place your tree away from any heat source, including away from fireplaces.
• Use the newer LED lights – they do not get as hot as traditional incandescent lights.
• Inspect your old lights for fraying cords and replace them as needed.
• Avoid using real candles.
• Practice your fire escape plan with your family.
5,800 individuals are treated each year for falls involving holiday decorations. Another 2,000 are treated from injuries sustained after tripping over extension cords.
• If you do need to get higher up in decorating inside or outside your home, use a ladder rather than a chair or other furniture.
• If you are stringing lights on your house with a ladder, make sure the ladder is stable and on level ground. As you work, stay level with the area you are working on and do not over reach.
• Do not string extension cords across walkways, hallways or in some other way that makes it a tripping hazard.
During the holidays your children will be exposed to new toys and even new foods. Be aware of what is age appropriate for your child. The biggest concern with small children is choking.
• For young children, check to ensure that toys do not have small parts that could be placed in a child’s mouth.
• Be aware of toy labeling to ensure that the toy is right for your child’s age.
• Tree ornaments or icicles can pose a choking risk as well.
• Common holiday foods like peanuts and popcorn should not be given to kids under 4 years old.
Dog Bite Prevention
This holiday season, we all need to be aware of our pets, especially dogs. Over 100,000 children under 10 are treated in hospital emergency departments annually for dog bites. Over the holidays you may visit other people who have dogs, or you may have a dog. Any dog, even your family dog, can bite.
• Never leave young children alone with a dog.
• Teach children to be gentle and to never tease or bother a dog that is sleeping or eating.
The holidays are filled with a sense of joy, but for many can also be a time of stress and anxiety. Some people can feel so depressed that they no longer want to live. In Connecticut, someone dies by suicide every day of the year on average. There are a number of things you can do for others, or for yourself to feel better during the holidays.
• If you know someone who is isolated or alone, include the person in your celebrations.
• Sometimes helping others during the holidays can help you to feel better too. Volunteer your time in a soup kitchen, for a toy drive or give a hand to your neighbor.
• If you feel that you or someone you care about is in crisis, dial 2-1-1 (in Connecticut).
• You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255.
• Dial 9-1-1 if you are in a life threatening situation.