Holiday Decorations and Safety

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
Henry Spiller

Q: With the holidays coming up, I'm looking forward to pulling out all the decorations for our home. Are there any decorations we should be aware of that are dangerous to children?

A: Not all decorations are safe for little ones. Some of them could be poisonous, and it's important that parents are aware of how certain items could be harmful to children.

Mistletoe is hazardous, and ingesting its leaves or berries can cause symptoms such as upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness and drowsiness.

Feel free to enjoy the "kissing ball" during the holidays, but consider wrapping mistletoe in netting to keep leaves or berries from falling onto the floor where kids can get to them.

Be cautious about holly berries, which are poisonous. Swallowing them can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and drowsiness. Children can experience these symptoms after ingesting as few as three or four berries.

Remove the berries before decorating with fresh holly.

Even if the holly is placed out of reach of children, the berries dry out quickly indoors and fall to the ground, where they are accessible to little hands.

While poinsettias have been determined not to be deadly, if swallowed they may cause mild irritation, including nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Touching the plant may cause a rash, which usually can be treated at home.

Jerusalem cherry plants, whose fruit resembles a cherry tomato in appearance and in flavor, can be toxic to children and cause upset stomach and vomiting, but they are not life-threatening.

If you suspect your child has been poisoned, call the poison center at 800-222-1222.

-Henry Spiller, MS, D.ABAT, is the Director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Tip of the Month

Other Holiday Hazards

It's important not to forget about other potential dangers during the holidays. Parents should remember:

• Alcohol poisoning – The smallest amount of alcohol left in a cup from a party the night before can get into the hands of a curious child. Be sure to clean up everything before your child has a chance to get into something harmful.

• Button batteries – Found in many children's toys, these small batteries are not only a choking hazard, but also can cause serious health problems if swallowed.

• Carbon monoxide – As always, be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning during the colder months. Mild symptoms mimic those of the flu: vomiting, dizziness and headache.

Always consult your child's pediatrician concerning your child's health.

For more pediatric health news parents can use, visit our blog.