Flickering candles, gatherings around the fireplace, and snow on the window panes. These visions are hard to resist as we set out to deck the halls for Christmas. That kind of enthusiasm can lead to mistakes, so it’s a good time to revisit some common safety concerns at holiday time.
- Be careful where you place candles. Keep them off window sills where they can ignite draperies. I once attended a party where an unattended candle in an upstairs window caused the curtains to catch fire while we were dining downstairs. Fortunately, an alert neighbor warned our hosts before the fire could spread any further.
- Keep candles out of the reach of children.
- Don’t light candles near the Christmas tree.
- Place candles where they are unlikely to be knocked over or ignite flammable materials.
- When using the fireplace, use a fireplace screen and always double check to make sure the flue is open.
- Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children.
- When tending the fireplace, stove, or oven, don’t wear loose clothing or flowing sleeves.
- Keep “fire salts” away from children. Fire salts that produce colored flames contain heavy metals. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), this can cause gastrointestinal irritation or vomiting if eaten.
- The CPSC also warns that it is dangerous to burn evergreens in the fireplace. The flames can flare out of control, sending sparks into the room or up the chimney, igniting creosote deposits.
- Don’t let those Christmas stockings dangle near the fireplace flames.
- Don’t smoke near decorations that are flammable. (Better yet, why not quit smoking?)
- Have an emergency fire escape plan in place and practice it with your family.
Fun and Games
- Balloons: Children and pets can choke on broken or deflated balloons.
- Small Parts: Young children are prone to putting things in their mouths. Toys and games that have small parts are a choking hazard and are generally recommended for children older than three.
- Magnets: High powered magnets are extremely dangerous for children. If multiple magnets are swallowed, stomach and intestinal damage is possible.
- Riding Toys: Riding toys like bikes and scooters should not be used without appropriate safety equipment.
- For information on recently recalled toys, see the CPSC Toy Hazard Recall List
Check out the list of ingredients before purchasing artificial snow spray. The CPSC says these products can irritate the lungs if inhaled. If you decide to use them, read and follow directions very carefully.
Use only lights that have been tested for safety and note whether they are for indoor or outdoor use. It may be tempting, (think Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation) but very dangerous to overload your electrical system.
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