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Decorate safely this holiday season

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 2:04 p.m. CDT

The holiday season is a magical, festive time filled with decorations, gifts and fun for people of all ages. However, the very things that brighten the holidays also can pose a threat to children if not used properly. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 10,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year as a result of injuries related to holiday decorating. Additionally, there are more than 14,000 candle-related fires each year, resulting in about 170 deaths and $350 million in property damage. Christmas trees also are involved in approximately 200 fires each year, resulting in 10 deaths and $10 million in property loss.

To avoid holiday injuries:

• Decorate with children in mind. Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or that look like food or candy, on the lower branches of a tree where small children can reach them. Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level, and keep lights out of reach.

• Never leave a decorative light display unattended. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets. Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.

• Natural Christmas trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times. Do not put the tree near heat sources, such as candles, fireplaces or heat vents.

• Keep items with sharp edges out of reach.

• Turn off decorative light displays and extinguish candles when you leave the room.

• Make sure all smoke alarms have batteries and are working. Develop a home fire escape plan for your family, with two ways out of each room.

• Never allow infants and toddlers to use toys with small parts that could be choking hazards. If a toy part fits in a standard cardboard toilet paper tube, it is small enough to pose a choking risk to a child.

• Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.

• Holly berries, mistletoe berries, poinsettias, amaryllis, boxwood, Christmas rose, Crown of Thorns, English ivy and Jerusalem cherry are all potentially harmful if eaten. Keep them out of reach of children and pets.

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