December 3, 2012

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt urges caution during holiday decorating

Holiday lights and decorations bring an increased potential for injury, especially to young children. Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is offering a host of tips to keep homes safe and prevent holiday-related injuries.

Holiday home safety mishaps account for more than 12,000 emergency room visits each year in the United States during November and December, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The dangers that lurk behind holiday cheer are often associated with electrical safety, tree-decorating mistakes, unintentional poisoning and cooking injuries.

“The holiday season primarily brings an increased risk for fire and burn injuries, since many households use candles or electrical lights to decorate. There is also an increased risk for home fires caused by cooking,” said Sarah Haverstick, Safe Children program manager at Children’s Hospital. “It is important to follow the safety tips provided when decorating, especially with candles and electrical lights, and make sure all young children are under active adult supervision.”

Keep these safety tips in mind as you celebrate the holidays:

Electrical Safety

  • Inspect holiday lights each year – check for frayed wires, broken sockets or excessive wear.
  • Look for the “ETL” or “UL” label on lights to make sure they have been tested for safety.
  • Unplug all holiday lights when you go to sleep or leave your house.
  • Don’t overload extension cords or outlets with too many plugs.

Safe Decorating

  • Make sure an adult is present when candles are lit and blow out the candles before leaving a room.
  • Keep candles at least three feet away from anything that might burn.
  • Store candles, matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children.
  • Artificial trees should have a “fire resistant” label.
  • Live trees should be watered frequently, keeping the stand filled with water at all times.
  • All trees should be at least three feet away from any heat source, including candles.
  • Avoid putting ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on lower branches easily accessible to young children.

Poison Prevention

  • Keep alcohol, including baking extracts, out of reach of children.
  • Color additives used in fireplace fires are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach.
  • Artificial snow can be harmful if inhaled, so use it in a well-vented space.
  • Mistletoe berries, holly berries and Jerusalem Cherry can be poisonous. If they are used in decorating, make sure children and pets cannot reach them.

For more information about holiday safety and other home safety tips contact the Kohl’s Safety Outreach Program at Children’s Hospital by calling (615) 936-SAFE (7233) or visiting  In a poison emergency, call the Tennessee Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222.