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Tips to Make Each Holiday Happy and Safe
By Carol Ball

Children anticipate few things as eagerly as the holiday season. Colorful decorations and mounds of gifts create a magical, festive atmosphere. However, these same items can cause unintentional injuries if not used properly. According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, more than 165,000 children under the age of 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms in 2002 for toy-related injuries, such as a burn or laceration. That same year, at least 13 children under age 14 died from toy-related injuries.

Parents are urged to be involved in playtime, especially with younger children. According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, nearly half of toy-related injuries and 90 percent of deaths are suffered by children ages four and under. In addition, children ages three and under are more likely to put small objects in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking.

These injuries can be avoided by following a few standard guidelines. Carol Ball, of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and SAFE KIDS of Georgia offers these tips to parents who want to safeguard children from preventable holiday injuries:

- Only allow your child to use age-appropriate toys. When choosing a toy, think about the child’s age and skill level.

- Regularly inspect toys for damage, including exposed sharp edges or loose pieces. Either repair the toy immediately or discard it.

- Monitor toy recalls regularly. A good resource is www.safekids.org

- If you have more than one child, make sure to label and keep toys separate to avoid a mix-up.

- Never allow infants and toddlers to use toys with small parts that could be choking hazards. Determine whether a part is too small by using a standard cardboard toilet paper tube. If the part fits entirely inside the tube, it is small enough to poise a serious choking risk to your child.

-Avoid purchasing toys with straps, strings or cords that are longer than seven inches and can accidentally strangle children.

-Do not allow children under age eight to use electrical toys or toys with a heating element.

- Riding toys (motorized and unpowered) are involved in more accidents than any other type of toy. In 2002 alone, more than 71,000 children were injured using them. If giving bikes, skates, skateboards or scooters as gifts, make sure to buy the appropriate helmet and other safety gear.

- Do not allow children to ride motorized vehicles, or “mini-choppers” on public streets. Not only are they not visible to automobile and truck drivers, but they are not street legal and violators can be ticketed. Anytime that your child is riding these types of vehicles, make sure he is outfitted with the appropriate helmet and safety gear. Always ensure that your child is being actively supervised by an adult. These vehicles are not meant for young, inexperienced drivers and can cause severe injury.

Parents should also keep in mind that seasonal decorations and holiday travels can result in unintentional injury as well.

- Keep decorations and other items with sharp edges well out of reach.

- Avoid a fire hazard by making sure that your tree is fresh, green and watered frequently. Also remember to place the tree away from heat sources, such as vents, candles or fireplaces. Make sure all smoke alarms have fresh batteries and that you have developed a home fire escape plan.

- Keep poisonous, decorative plants, such as amaryllis, holly and mistletoe, out of reach of children and pets. Keep your local Poison Center number in a prominent place along with other emergency numbers.

- Practice common sense while decorating. Only use indoor holiday lights inside and outdoor holiday lights outside.

- When traveling, everyone in the car should be using his or her safety belt or child safety seat. Make sure child safety seats are appropriate for the child’s height and weight and are used according to manufacturer’s instructions.

For more information on holiday safety call Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at 404-250-kids, or visit www.choa.org.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, one of the leading pediatric healthcare systems in the country, is a not-for-profit organization that benefits from the generous philanthropic and volunteer support of our community and state. With 430 licensed beds in two hospitals and more than 400,000 annual patient visits, Children’s is recognized for excellence in cardiac, cancer and transplant services, as well as in many other pediatric specialties. To learn more about Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, visit the Web site at www.choa.org or call 404-250-kids.

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