"Help, my two year old just ate a poinsettia petal."
Does this sound familiar? I am certain it does if you're a busy mother with two toddler aged boys like me. And if life with kids wasn't crazy enough before the fourth Thursday in November, it most certainly is after the winter holiday season takes off into full sprint mode.
The holidays are a festive time with family and friends. However, activities around the holiday and in the winter months can also increase risk of injury. The Poison Control Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia receives around 200 calls daily, and the nature of those calls usually has a seasonal flare. During the winter holiday months, we receive an increased number of calls related to plants, toys, and decorations.
So right about now, you're probably wondering…"What happened to that two-year-old that ate the poinsettia petal?" Fortunately, the poinsettia is not highly toxic, but it can cause skin irritation, upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting. So this mom's nerves were calmed downed by the specialist at the poison center, who assured her there was no need to rush to the emergency room and that her child was going to be ok.
Other winter plants and berries that we get called about that are more concerning than poinsettias are:
To be on the safe side, it's best to keep all winter plants and berries out of reach from children and animals, including dried arrangements which present a choking hazard.
Another danger year-round and especially during the holidays is the ingestion of button batteries. Here's a quick run through of what they are and how they can be dangerous. Button batteries are the small disc batteries found in many toys, television remotes, electronic devices, and singing greeting cards. Just like coins (and EVERYTHING if you're talking about a young toddler), many children have a tendency to put these in their mouths, which can lead to an accidental ingestion.
The button batteries can become lodged in the esophagus (the tube that connects our mouths to our stomach) without the child showing any signs or symptoms. Within just a few hours, the lodged battery can cause tissue damage and tissue death. We refer all button battery ingestions into the emergency room so that an X-ray can be performed to be sure the battery is not lodged. For additional safety, many newer toys and remotes have battery compartments that require tools to open, however, older ones do not. And as mentioned above, singing greeting cards also contain button batteries. Be sure to keep loose batteries out of reach of children, and supervise children when they're playing with singing greeting cards.
Besides the extra winter plants and berries, what else might be a hazard in your home during holidays? If you guessed decorations, then you guessed right. Glass ornaments and lights can pose a choking hazard and a risk for injury if broken or chewed. Did you know the bubble lights (which were popular circa 1950-70s) contain a toxic chemical called, methylene chloride, a solvent used in paint strippers, degreasers, and propellants? When inhaled, ingested, or touched, it metabolizes to carbon monoxide in the body. They have been trying to make a comeback so be wary of the liquid that may get exposed from broken bubble lights. Keep a close eye on children and pets when they are near holiday decorations. For some comic relief on the impact of children on tree decorating, check out this infographic from Nickmom.com.
Here are some other tips to stay safer this holiday season:
The Poison Control Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia wishes you a healthy, happy holiday season!