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Holiday safety tips from OHSU Doernbecher and the Oregon Poison Center

Holiday celebrations are coming up, with children home from school and visiting family and friends. During the excitement, remember to keep your family safe from holiday-specific risks. The Tom Sargent Children's Safety Center at Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children's Hospital and the Oregon Poison Center suggest following these helpful tips:

Handle decorations and lights with care

  • Place delicate glass ornaments high on the tree and away from small children; they can break easily and cause injuries.
  • Check all holiday lights for fraying; damaged wires can pose an electrical risk.
  • Turn off and unplug all lights at bedtime and when no one is home.

Avoid fire hazards

  • Keep matches out of sight and reach of children.
  • Don't leave burning candles unattended.
  • Don't burn wrapping paper or evergreens in the fireplace.
  • Use care with 'fire salts,' which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten.
  • Be sure smoke detectors are working; check the batteries!

Keep poisonous plants, décor, gifts and medications away from children and pets

  • Call the poison center for advice if a child ingests the leaves or berries from holiday plants; they can irritate the stomach.
  • Keep lamp oil away from children, it can look like juice and is dangerous if ingested.
  • Be sure all medications have child safety caps and are kept out of reach of children; remind holiday visitors to take this precaution as well.

Practice toy safety

  • Select toys that match a child's age, abilities, skills and interest level. Children younger than three can choke on small parts contained in toys or games.
  • Take the 'tube test' with toys. If a toy or any of its parts can fit through a paper towel cylinder, it is too small for a child under the age of three.
  • Remove strings and ribbons from toys and watch for pull toys with strings more than 12 inches in length, they pose a strangulation hazard for babies.
  • Avoid toys that do not have a screw to keep the batteries, especially button batteries, in place; they can be extremely dangerous if swallowed. Call the poison center for advice or go immediately to an emergency department if a child swallows a button battery.
  • Avoid having small magnets around if you have young children, they can cause severe abdominal problems if swallowed. If you think one has been swallowed, call the poison center for advice.
  • Store toys in a designated location, such as on a shelf or in a toy chest, and keep older kids' toys out of reach.

Keep your child safe at home and on the go

  • Remember to post the Oregon Poison Center's number (1 800-222-1222) by home phones and save to cell phones.
  • Block stairs off with a screw-mounted gate to prevent falls in the home and make sure that toilets have a lock when young children are present.
  • Have your child's car seat checked if you are traveling this season. Call the Tom Sargent Safety Center at OHSU Doernbecher for more information: 503 494-3735.

Properly handle and store food

  • Wash hands before and after handling raw food and meats to minimize your chance of contamination from bacteria.
  • Promptly refrigerate dips, eggs, cheeses and meats.
  • Be sure that all holiday drinks containing alcohol are not within reach of children.
  • Thaw your holiday turkey in the refrigerator, allowing one to three days for complete thawing. If time does not allow, immerse the turkey in a watertight wrapper in cold water and continue adding ice to avoid the turkey reaching room temperature.
  • Remember to remove the liver and gizzards and if you plan to stuff your turkey, do it just prior to roasting.
  • Use a meat thermometer to determine when the turkey is done. Place the thermometer inside the thigh muscle or the thickest part of the breast. It should read 180-185 degrees for a normal turkey. For stuffed turkey, place thermometer in the stuffing; the thermometer here should read 165 degrees.
  • Remove stuffing from the turkey promptly after cooking; do not allow the stuffing to cool inside the turkey.
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