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Holiday Safety, A Gift For Everyone
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Katie Lawson
December 19, 2006

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – adults look forward to parties, delicious food and spending time with loved ones while children can think about only one thing...toys! As kids throughout the country are counting down the days until they can unwrap their presents, the American Red Cross reminds parents to use caution and care for gift giving and decking the halls.

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that in 2005, more than 152,000 children under 15 years old were treated for toy-related injuries in U.S. hospital emergency rooms. All consumers are urged to make safety a top priority this gift-giving season because no one wants to make a trip to the hospital.

Think Before You Buy

The best way to ensure your child receives safe and appropriate gifts this holiday season is to be a smart shopper. By shopping carefully for suitable toys, you can prevent injury and even death. Take note of these top toy safety tips and use common sense when purchasing all of your holiday goodies.

  • Be a label reader and pay close attention to the recommended age designation marked on the package. Select only toys that suit the age, ability, skill and interest level of the intended child.
  • When shopping for toys, check the box to make sure the product has been tested for safety by an independent product safety and certification organization. This ensures the toy complies to appropriate safety requirements.
  • Before you allow your child to play with the toy, read all manufacturer’s warnings to make sure you and your child understand the proper way to play.
  • For infants and toddlers, avoid buying toys with small parts that could pose a potentially fatal choking hazard.
  • Avoid toys with sharp edges or points as well as electric toys with heating elements for children under age 8.
  • Look for sturdy toys with tightly secured eyes, noses and other potentially small parts.

Play it Safe

Choosing safe toys for the kids is the first step, but playing it safe doesn’t stop there. Nothing makes a child happier than a freshly unwrapped present. Once the gifts are open, be sure to supervise young ones and follow these safety suggestions:

  • Immediately discard all wrapping paper and packaging, such as plastic bags, so children do not confuse them as play things.
  • If a toy requires assembly, make sure a responsible adult complies to the manufacturer’s instructions when putting it together.
  • Remember that siblings are likely to share toys. Teach older children to keep their toys with small parts away from their younger sibling or neighbor.
  • Always supervise young children when playing with their toys. Toys with cords or strings can pose a strangling hazard and toys that make loud noises can be harmful to a child’s hearing when held directly to the ear.

Deck the Halls

Festive holiday decorations are as much a tradition as gifts or delicious edible treats. Unfortunately, some decorations, such as mistletoe and holly berries, can look as delectable as anything on the table to little ones and are dangerous if consumed. While live holly plants are toxic if ingested, even fake plants pose a risk since small children put everything in their mouths and the small plastic berries could cause them to choke.

The best way to keep children of all ages safe is to place the decorations high up and out of reach so they can be admired but not touched. If you fear your child has ingested something they shouldn’t have, call the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222. If the child is unconscious, call 9-1-1 immediately.

When trimming your tree, small ornaments, garland and food-inspired decorations can all be hazardous to your child’s health as they also pose a choking risk. Hang small decorations higher on the tree or leave them off until the kids are a bit older.

Don’t forget family pets as well! Your four-legged friends also may confuse holiday décor for treats or may sneak goodies that are bad for them. Remember that chocolate, even in small quantities, has the potential to make your dog extremely sick. Think twice about where to place holiday candy dishes around the home.

Take care to closely monitor candles and fireplaces. Whether you’re setting the mood with a candlelit dinner or lighting the menorah or Kinara, never leave burning candles unattended. Be sure that all candles and matches are kept in a safe place, out of the reach of children. Always keep flames away from anything flammable including gift wrap, bows and seasonal greenery.

The Red Cross Can Help

Add safety to your holiday list by enrolling in a safety course today. The Red Cross offers basic first aid and CPR classes through its network of chapters. Or, if you have a new little one in your life, consider taking the Red Cross offers a Safe Baby Orientation. The one-hour class provides a hands-on orientation to infant CPR taught by a Red Cross certified instructor. The Safe Baby Orientation can be held anywhere from a baby shower to a classroom to your own home. Contact your local Red Cross chapter to learn more about the classes that are available near you.

Many Red Cross chapters also now offer pet first aid classes, which teach valuable skills for animal caregivers such as recognizing a problem, what to do if an animal is choking and how to perform rescue breathing. Classes are available at select chapters throughout the country, and pet owners anywhere can purchase a copy of the Red Cross pet first aid book through the RedCross.org Store or from their local chapter.

Planning ahead and taking extra precautions to keep your loved ones safe is the best present you can ever give. The American Red Cross wishes you a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.

The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.

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