As part of my reconnaissance for writing this post, I polled my Facebook friends and asked, “What do you think is the most toxic thing about the Holidays”? One of my favorite replies was, “relatives”. Well, unfortunately that is more “Dear Prudence’s” purview than my own, but below you will find some information on what is the most common or dangerous substances the IPC hears about around the holidays.
- Christmas tree ornaments are mainly a choking hazard, but some types of angel hair can be made of spun glass which can cause significant irritation to the mouth and throat if ingested.
- Snow globes are glass or plastic domes filled with water. The snow is made from a non-toxic chalk-like or plastic substance. However, the fluid contained in the globe could become contaminated with harmful bacteria over time, and cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested (though this is rare). These are obviously non-issues when the globe is intact, but they do not bounce well when dropped…
- Holiday plants
- Two weeks ago, Tony wrote a fantastic piece on the poinsettia, a holiday plant that has a horrible reputation, but is in fact minimally toxic. A leaf or two might only cause some nausea and/or vomiting. BUT, no poinsettia salads please!
- Last week, Mike wrote about other common holiday plants and their potential toxicities: mistletoe, holly, and yew. (Yew is especially toxic!)
- Holiday Gifts
- The last thing any parent wants to do is give their kids a potentially dangerous gift from Santa. It’s a good idea to avoid toys that contain small magnets or button batteries which can be swallowed. Ingestion of these items can cause potentially serious damage to the esophagus or intestines. Some of the items that contain small magnets include stress-reliever toys and faux body piercings; button batteries can be found in singing greeting cards, light up pins, jewelry or pens, and remote controllers.
- Alcohol (Yes, booze)
- One common event around the holidays is the party, and at many parties comes alcohol libations of all sorts (many of which are quite tasty). It’s important to not leave alcoholic drinks unattended when children are around.
- It doesn’t take much to make a child inebriated. Just one tablespoon of vodka or tequila will make a 25 pound toddler legally drunk. That works out to about 1/3 of a vodka and cranberry drink left out on the table during present-opening. A little less than 3 tablespoons (40 ml or just under a shot glass) can induce a coma in the same child.
In addition to specific holiday toxins, one of the biggest issues around the holidays is, for lack of a better word, the hoopla. Picture the scene: kids are in new environments visiting relatives (environments which may not be child proofed), parents are preoccupied by the turkey in the oven and their cousin they haven’t seen since last year, and Grandma’s purse filled with her prescription medicine is laying unattended on the couch… well you get the picture.
Follow these tips to keep kids safe this holiday season:
- Keep relatives’ purses, bags and coats (which may contain medications) up high out of reach and sight of children. A locked bedroom will also do the trick.
- Request that your guests hold onto their alcoholic drinks until they’ve finished and empty abandoned cups immediately.
- Keep a very close eye on kiddos as they get near to the tree. Tree trimmings are pretty to look at, but you don’t want them to try giving it a taste test!
- Keep holiday plants (like mistletoe or holly) up high out of reach of children and use a clear netting underneath to catch any falling berries.
It’s important to be extra vigilant in watching kids this time of year. And of course to have the IPC number handy: 1-800-222-1222: No matter what your holiday has in store, remember that the IPC is here for any of your potentially toxic needs 24/7/365. Yes, we are here on Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Years and all other holidays as well!