News Release

December 8, 2005

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

You Better Watch Out

Holiday Poison Prevention Tips

FARMINGTON, Conn.– It’s the busy season. Parties, baking, decorating, and all the other tasks that occupy us during the holidays, are in full swing. This also creates a minefield of opportunities for young, energetic and curious children to explore, experiment, and find themselves in trouble.

Many of the calls the Connecticut Poison Control Center staff receives during the holidays are alcohol-related. According to Marc Bayer, M.D., poison control medical director at UConn Health Center, even moderate amounts of alcohol can be lethal to a young child. “Spiked eggnog left on a low table is an invitation for disaster,” said Dr. Bayer. “Youngsters can quickly drink it, and depending on the amount of alcohol in the drink and the weight of the child, it can cause severe alcohol poisoning, resulting in a coma, and even death.”

Parents are often stressed and likely to be preoccupied with holiday chores, focusing on the task at hand, says Amy Hanoian-Fontana, poison control center community education specialist. “They need to acknowledge that they are busy and therefore, more likely to be less observant. Parents may even be unaware of potential poisoning risks for kids during the holidays,” says Ms. Hanoian-Fontana. “Holiday homes can easily be made safe for children.”

The poison control center has the following tips to help you keep your holidays safe and merry.

  • Never give alcohol to a child. In addition to beer, wine, cocktails and punches, alcohol is also in popular gifts, such as shaving lotion, perfume and cologne. Don’t leave bottles of toiletries or perfumes where young children can reach them. 
  • When swallowed, lamp oil is drawn into the lungs from coughing, and that can lead to pneumonia. Even lamp oil that is spilled can be aspirated. The oils come in a variety of soft-drink colors and look tasty to children. Keep all oil lamps out of children’s reach. 
  • Holly, mistletoe, balsam, juniper, cedar, pines and fir may be harmful if swallowed. Mistletoe and holly are especially toxic, and the berries can look enticing. With young children in the home, parents may want to avoid using greens and berries, or at least place them out of children’s reach. 
  • Poinsettias are not poisonous. A 50-lb. child would have to eat more than one pound, about 500 leaves, of a poinsettia plant to experience symptoms, such as an upset stomach, nausea and diarrhea. 
  • Heirloom ornaments may contain lead; angel hair and glitter may cause irritation to eyes and/or skin; and aerosol products, such as artificial snow, should not be used without proper ventilation. 
  • Be sure Christmas trees are secure in their stands. Hang breakable ornaments high on tree branches. 
  • Candles can be especially dangerous – for everyone. If you use them, be sure they are up high and where they can’t be bumped and fall over. Keep an eye on them, and put them out as soon as they get low. Most important: be sure all candles are out before retiring. 
  • Clean up party remnants before going to bed. Food and drinks left on low tables are inviting to early risers.

“Sometimes the most obvious hazards go unnoticed by adults who see only familiar holiday surroundings,” said Ms. Hanoian-Fontana. “Young explorers see a whole different world.”

If you suspect a poisoning, don’t wait to see what happens, call the emergency poison hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

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