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Children's Health

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Keeping the Holidays Safe From Hidden Poisons


She also tells WebMD that parents should avoid getting into a subtle mindset that sometimes takes over when there are lots of people in the house: that "somebody" must be watching the children. "In lots of cases kids get into things because there wasn't one single adult charged with watching the child," she says.

Many holiday decorations present choking hazards, but most are made out of nontoxic materials, such as plastic. The water-containing snow globes which, when agitated, create a blizzard of plastic particles should cause no problem if the water and tiny plastic "snowflakes" are ingested, but there is a possibility that the water could be contaminated with bacteria.

Potentially much more toxic are aromatic oils used to give the house a Christmas scent. Soloway says that while it's hard to make a generalization about these products, one thing is certain: Children can develop a deadly form of pneumonia if the oils get into the lungs. That could happen if a child coughs or chokes while swallowing one. In addition, highly concentrated "essential oils" can cause seizures if ingested -- even in small amounts.

With many parents hitting the road for the holidays, Soloway advises packing two items along with the gifts and winter clothes: The number of a poison control center and a bottle of the vomiting agent syrup of ipecac. But under no circumstances should parents use the latter, until speaking with a representative from the former.

To find out the number of poison control center near your holiday destination, visit the American Association of Poison Control Centers homepage at

Vital Information:

  • Many holiday decorations can be toxic if ingested by children, including holly berries and aromatic oils.
  • Parents should also watch out for alcohol at parties, because only a small amount is necessary to cause alcohol poisoning in children.
  • Among the large crowds at holiday celebrations, a single adult should be charged with watching the children.
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