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Holidays present safety hazards

Winter holidays in Montana are magical and memorable, but also can present unique child safety issues many of us neglect to consider. We decorate our homes, host guests and indulge in a frenzy of activities that create unintended safety hazards for our children. To keep the holidays happy, safe and injury-free, please consider the following child safety precautions:

• Ensure that all electrical cords are in good condition and out of walking paths around your home (including not placing them under rugs). Electrical burns and falls from tripping on cords are among the most common holiday injuries for children.

• Be mindful of delicious hot holiday drinks – though tasty, they can lead to scald burns when left unattended and within reach of a young child. It is particularly important to remind guests of this if they are not accustomed to being around young children.

• Candles invoke a festive feeling during the holidays, but are responsible for a significant increase in home fires during this time. Candles should be kept a minimum of three feet away from anything that can burn and out of the reach of children and pets, and should be monitored at all times. Battery-powered candles can be a safe alternative.

• Hosting a house full of guests is common at the holidays. This increased activity can lead to decreased supervision of our children. Have adult guests take turns watching the children, hire a trusted baby sitter during holiday parties and make safe play rules clear to the children in your home.

• Exercise caution when cooking holiday meals. It is recommended you keep children a safe distance from the stove at all times and take time to teach them kitchen safety as you prepare meals or bake holiday goodies.

• Out-of-town guests are a welcome addition to any holiday celebration. However, these guests may leave their toiletry bags and items on the bathroom counter where a young child can then find medications and other items that could be harmful to them. Provide a designated spot for your guests to stow potentially unsafe items.

• Carefully read the labels of the toys and gifts you purchase for children before wrapping them to be sure that they are age appropriate and safe. When giving an older sibling a gift that could be harmful to their younger sibling (small parts that a younger child could choke on, for example), be sure to remind the child to keep the toy in a place that is out of reach for their little brother or sister.

• Playing in the snow is exhilarating and a great way to expend holiday energy. Be sure to dress your children warmly from head to toe. It is strongly recommended that children wear helmets when sledding, snowmobiling, skiing or snowboarding to prevent head injuries resulting from falls. Adult supervision also is recommended.

Following these common-sense suggestions will help to keep your loved ones safe this holiday season. For more safety information and checklists, go to homesafetycouncil.org.

Kim McKearnan is the director of pediatrics at Community Medical Center