Decorating mistakes to avoid this season

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

During the Christmas season, food, family, gifts and decorations are some important highlights and traditions, though candles, Christmas trees and other decorations can pose fire and poisoning hazards, especially to curious children.

"The holidays are a time for spending with family and friends, not rushing to the emergency room," stated Daphne Greenlee, the Safe Kids Springfield coordinator for Mercy hospital, "Once all of your decorations are up, keeping a close eye on both children and decorations themselves is an important step to a safe holiday season."

In 2005, candles started 15,600 home fires in the United States. The National Fire Protection Association reported that the top four days for candle fires are around the time of Christmas and New Year's. Using battery-operated no-flame candles is a welcome alternative that does not involve a fire risk.

"Never, never leave lit candles unattended," said Greenlee, "Do not put candles on a tree or natural wreath, or near curtains or drapes and keep matches and lighters locked out of children's reach. If you would like decorative lighting, make sure it is labeled with the seal of independent labs, and only use it outdoors if it is labeled for outdoor use."

Individuals planning to decorate trees should decorate with children in mind. Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches of the tree where children can reach them. Trim protruding branches at or below the child's eye level, and keep Christmas lights out of reach.

To avoid the risk of fire with a natural Christmas tree, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times. Do not put the tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent.

In addition, never leave a lit Christmas tree or other decorative lighting display unattended. Check all lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections or broken sockets. Never overload extension cords or outlets, and do not run an electrical cord under a rug. Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.

To avoid poisoning, keep alcohol, including baking extracts, out of reach, and do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended. Color additives used in the fireplace are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach.

Artificial snow can be harmful if inhaled, so use in a well-vented area. Mistletoe berries, Holly Berry and Jerusalem Cherry can be poisonous. If they are used in decorating, make sure they are out of reach for children and pets.

In a poison emergency contact the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.

For more information about holiday safety call Mercy's Injury Prevention Hotline at 417-820-7233 or visit

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