Don't let poisoning spoil a happy holiday

Monday, December 20, 2010

One of the joys of the holidays is getting together with family and friends, but too often, the safety of children is overlooked during the celebration.

The Nebraska Regional Poison Center reports that poisoning incidents involving children increase over the holidays, while children are spending extra time at home amid potential dangers.

In a release passed along by Darcey Hansen, director of the Red Willow County Health Department, the poison center noted that common calls this time of year include cigarettes, batteries, food poisoning, holiday plants, bubble lights, angel hair, snow sprays, fireplace color crystals and ingestion of guests' medications by young children.

The center offers a few tips on how to maintain this as "the most wonderful time of the year."

* Keep small children and animals away from seasonal plants such as mistletoe and holly berries, yew plants and poinsettias. Poinsettias are not the fatal poison they were once believed to be, but in large amounts can cause upset stomachs.

* Lead can be a hazard in some tree light wires and older Christmas trees. It is reasonable to wash your hands after handling these cords and trees and keep them out of the hands of children. The ornaments that were handed down over the generations may contain lead in the paint.

* Be mindful of icicles or tinsel. Both can be a choking hazard if swallowed. Angel hair is finely spun glass, which can cause cuts or irritation when handled or swallowed.

* Visiting relatives may bring their medications. More than 50 percent of the calls to the Poison Center involve medications. Never leave medications on a nightstand -- make sure to store these up and out of reach.

* Clean up immediately following all holiday parties so that alcohol and other potentially harmful items are not within reach of young children. Children often imitate adults and they will drink partially filled glasses regardless of the contents. Empty ash trays often, and clean them when the party is over. It takes just a few cigarette butts to send a child to the hospital.

* Beware of toys containing small magnets, cheap metal jewelry and any toy that can be broken into small pieces and cause a choking hazard.

* Post the telephone number of the Nebraska Regional Poison Center and your family physician near the phone. If you suspect a poisoning has occurred, call the Nebraska Regional Poison Center or your physician before attempting any emergency treatment.

Remember, prevention is the best treatment for poisonings. The Nebraska Regional Poison Center offers tips on holiday safety and poison prevention as a free community service to the public. For more information, call (800) 222-1222.

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