Health safety checklist for the holidays

December 19, 2017

By: Megan Hays, NP (Peconic Pediatrics, Riverhead & Southold, New York) 

Tis’ the season … to make a pediatric health safety checklist – and check it twice!

The holiday season provides families with the perfect opportunity to visit or host friends and family, to provide children with new toys, and to feast and celebrate together.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and Poison Control both remind us, however, that these festive opportunities also merit extra attention to safety when kids and babies are underfoot!  To keep you safe AND sane, we here at Allied have compiled some holiday-specific safety reminders to keep you and yours safe while celebrating this holiday season.

New toy checklist

The holidays are a season of giving!  While we are thankful to receive gifts from family and friends, be sure to also ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it safe?
    • Say “no” to baby walkers! These cute toys help babies get around – and that’s not always a good thing.  They are associated with higher instances of falling, drowning, or reaching unsafe items.
    • Secure all batteries! Batteries and magnets are a very dangerous choking hazard.  Make sure children are not able to access batteries in toys.
    • Snip that pull string! Toys with a pull string greater than 12” are more likely to pose a strangulation hazard
    • Watch for detachable (or breakable) parts! Double-check toys to ensure any removable parts that could cause a choking hazard have been removed and put away.
  • Is it age-appropriate?
    • Beware of choking hazards, particularly for children who are under 3 or developmentally delayed.
    • Toys that plug into an outlet are not appropriate for children under 10; battery-powered toys are better (and remember to secure those batteries!).
  • Are there other children in the house that could choke on the toy or its pieces?
    • Does the toy fit through a cardboard toilet paper tube? If so, it can be a choking hazard for children under 3.  Recruit big kids to check their toys and keep them cleaned up or away from your little one, or create a special area for these toys that the baby can’t access.

Holiday décor safety checklist

  • Mistletoe berries and holly berries both contain chemicals that can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. (Holly berries pose additional health threats to dogs.)
  • Poinsettias: While the flowers are harmless, the sap can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, or stomach lining. The sap can also cause a cross-reactive allergic reaction in 40% of patients with latex allergy.  The most common reaction is a skin irritation, so rinsing the skin often prevents further problems.
  • Antique bubble lights: Beyond the risk of broken glass, bubble lights contain a fluid (usually methylene chloride) that is dangerous when touched, eaten, or inhaled. Such contact can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, drowsiness, coma, seizures, heart attack, or, unfortunately, death. The amount of methylene chloride in a single bulb is unlikely to cause symptoms, but it is still best to keep these nostalgic lights out of the home if possible, or at least keep kids away from the lights.
  • Balloons pose an extra choke hazard for children under 8, and ribbons longer than 12” pose a strangulation risk. Do not leave young children unattended with these festive items.


Household toxin checklist

When traveling to another person’s home or having guests in yours, the child may be more likely to have access to dangerous toxins.  Here are some specific items to be mindful of, along with a reminder of how to contact poison control.

  • Medication and Vitamins: Studies show that most grandparents identify outlets as the #1 kids safety risk around the holidays, but medication ingestion is 36x more likely to send a kid to the ER. Furthermore, studies show that older adults are more likely to have unsecured medicines in their home.  Ask your hosts and houseguests to keep medicines and vitamins out of reach and in child-proof containers.
  • Cleaning supplies: Double-check that they are kept out of reach or in a locked cabinet.
  • Alcohol: Ensure that there is a designated “child watcher” during parties to make sure no curious kids or toddlers have an opportunity to consume partygoers’ drinks. According to Poison Control, alcohol can cause a child’s blood sugar to drop, leading to seizures, coma, and even death. During and after the party, be sure to provide elevated locations for guests to keep their drinks and clean up drinks right away.  While we’re at it – don’t forget to appoint a designated driver!
  • Tobacco: Smoke and things that smell like smoke can put a child at risk for ear and lung infections. Cigarette butts provide additional concern as a curious child may eat them.  Ask guests to refrain from smoking in the house – provide a place to smoke outside and a flameproof receptacle so they aren’t tempted to drop them in the yard where your children play.
  • Poison control: If you think a child may have swallowed something that will hurt him or her, call the poison control hotline at (800)222-1222. Save it on your phone to make sure it is always at hand.  The poison control website also has an online tool for further guidance.

Being mindful of these hazards will help to ensure a safer and happier holiday for everyone.  Certainly, an ounce of prevention is certainly worth a pound of cure.  May you and yours have a safe and happy holiday season!

(Megan Hays’ pretzel cabin gingerbread house)

Allied Physicians Group is a partnership of more than 150 dedicated, caring physicians and 350 highly trained support staff. Allied serves over 180,000 patients with offices throughout Greater New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and beyond. Founded in 2006, Allied Physicians Group is a recognized leader in increasing healthcare efficiencies and patient satisfaction, emphasizing support, innovation, and collaboration. If you are looking for a Pediatrician near you click here or for more information please visit