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The ABCs of holiday safety

To help ensure that your kids have fun and stay safe, here are a few tips to keep in mind throughout the holiday season.

Blogging with Jeanette Trella, Pharm.D, Managing Director at The Poison Control Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is  Blair Thornley, PharmD, CSPI, a pharmacist at the Poison Control Center at Children's.

Family gatherings, colorful lights, delicious food, new toys – the holiday season really is a wonderful time of year, especially for children. Unfortunately, for emergency department (ED) staff, it's also one of the busiest. In 2012, approximately 192,000 children were treated in the ED for a toy-related injury. The same year, 3,270 children were seen for injuries related to non-electric holiday decorations, such as broken ornaments.

To help ensure that your kids have fun and stay safe, here are a few tips to keep in mind throughout the holiday season.

Alcohol: Alcohol poisoning is a common risk for children over the holidays. Oftentimes, parents host holiday parties where alcohol is served. Be sure to remove all empty and partially empty cups as soon as possible, and do not set your drink down within a child's reach. Children like to imitate adults, and may want to drink things that they see adults drinking. However, alcohol affects children much faster than it does adults, so even small amounts can be potentially hazardous.

Button Batteries: Keep an eye on toys with small pieces and keep them out of reach of small children. Button batteries especially, can easily become lodged in the throat of a younger, curious sibling with little or no symptoms, and this could be very dangerous. If this occurs, they need to be taken to the emergency room immediately.

Cracked décor: Tis the season where we decorate our homes with lots of baubles and ornaments. Make sure to check your snow globes for any cracks, and keep them out of the hands of small children. Curious children will also want to play with the ornaments on the tree. Be sure to keep the more breakable ornaments up high, where a child is less likely to be able to reach them. Save the softer, more kid-friendly ornaments for the bottom of the tree. Although neither of these items are considered to be toxic, broken glass can certainly lead to injuries.

Decorative Plants: Lots of families like to decorate their home with festive plants around this time of year. However, some of these plants have berries that can be poisonous if enough are ingested. The most common offenders include: mistletoe berries, holly berries, poinsettias, and Jerusalem cherry. Be sure to keep these plants up and out of reach of children to avoid the significant stomach upset that can occur after ingestion.

Hopefully, with these tips in mind, we can all have a safer, healthier holiday season! As always, if an exposure does occur, never hesitate to call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222, where a pharmacist or nurse is standing by with helpful advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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