With the holidays upon us, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about holiday safety. I will discuss just a few of the many recommended safety precautions.

Poisoning:  Contrary to popular thought, the poinsettia plant is not poisonous, but if ingested could make a little one quite sick.  Mistletoe and holly are considered poisonous. Be careful with these plants.

Choking:  Children have a natural tendency to put things in their mouths. The following are items to keep away from little children:  small toys or larger toys that can be broken down into smaller pieces, small batteries, small decorations, ornaments, coins, and food such as peanuts, popcorn, and small hard candy. Clean up carefully after opening presents as little ones can choke on scrap pieces of tape, wrapping paper, and ribbons.  Look carefully around your living environment and be aware of children's exposure to anything that will fit in their mouths.

Burns:  Place candles in a safe location far from the reach of a young child as well as away from flammable objects such as curtains, decorations, and the good old Christmas tree. Keep matches and cigarette lighters out of a child's sight and reach. Do not leave burning candles unattended and especially remember to extinguish them before going to bed. Have a fireguard in front of the fireplace. Do not burn wrapping paper in fireplaces and be sure that the area around the fireplace is free of combustible material.  Look around closely for potential fire hazards. Keep hot drinks and food out of a child's reach.

Injuries:  Check new and existing furniture, TVs, and equipment, to be sure they cannot be tipped over easily. Ensure that outdoor play equipment is assembled properly and has a soft surface underneath. I can't stress enough the importance of children wearing a helmet when riding bikes, scooters, etc. Too many children are seriously injured or killed from a head injury which could have easily been prevented by wearing a helmet.

Tree safety:  Make sure at time of purchase that an artificial tree is labeled "fire resistant."  When purchasing a live tree be sure it is as fresh as possible. This can be done by shaking the tree to see if an over abundant number of needles fall off. Place the tree in a secure stand with water as soon as possible to keep it from further drying. Do not position it close to heat sources such as fireplaces, heating vents, and radiators. Use only flame resistant or non-flammable decorations to adorn the tree.

And now a word to adults. Christmas is a fun and social season, when a fair amount of alcohol and salty food can be consumed.  A bit of overindulgence can cause "holiday heart" syndrome which is due to an abnormal heart rhythm manifested by a fast and irregular heartbeat. People with a history of atrial fibrillation are more susceptible to this condition, which although serious, is usually not life threatening. If it lasts more than a few hours, or if you feel short of breath, have chest pain, or feel faint, go to the emergency room.   And please, if you decide to enjoy alcoholic beverages, do not drive. Have a designated driver.  Being in an accident or arrested for drunk driving is just not worth it.

Have a very happy and healthy holiday season.

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