‘Tis the sea­son to be safe

The Saline Courier - - OPINION -

Dear Doc­tor: It’s our turn to host our ex­tended fam­ily for the hol­i­days. That means my hus­band and I will have adults, tod­dlers, teens, ba­bies and a few se­nior ci­ti­zens here at the house for at least four days. What should we do to keep ev­ery­one safe?

Dear Reader: With the prospect of a full house dur­ing an of­ten-hec­tic time of year, we think it’s wise that you and your hus­band are pre­par­ing not only for the fes­tiv­i­ties, but for the pos­si­bil­ity of mishaps. And, re­ally, whether the hol­i­day sea­son en­tails host­ing mul­ti­tudes or a small and quiet cel­e­bra­tion, some sim­ple pre­cau­tions can make this time of year safer for ev­ery­one.

Let’s start with hol­i­day decor, which can be par­tic­u­larly en­tic­ing to chil­dren. Tin­sel is a po­ten­tial chok­ing haz­ard, as are or­na­ment hooks. So are the or­na­ments them­selves, if they’re small enough. If -- or more likely, when -- an or­na­ment breaks, be sure to col­lect all of the pieces, and then thor­oughly vac­uum the area to pick up any stray frag­ments. If you’ve gone old-school and dec­o­rated the tree with bub­ble lights, be aware that the fluid they con­tain is toxic.

Some of the plants we bring into the house this time of year can pose dan­gers. The berries on holly and bit­ter­sweet and the leaves on mistle­toe are known to be toxic. So are amaryl­lis and daf­fodils. Al­though poin­set­tia is of­ten char­ac­ter­ized as poi­sonous, that’s in­cor­rect. How­ever, cer­tain com­pounds in the plant can cause skin ir­ri­ta­tion, or, if in­gested, can some­times re­sult in nau­sea or vom­it­ing.

Food and kitchen safety are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant dur­ing a hol­i­day sea­son that re­volves around cook­ing, bak­ing and eat­ing. The num­ber of kitchen fires spikes dra­mat­i­cally dur­ing this time of year, so make sure the var­i­ous chefs never leave their creations unat­tended. It’s also im­por­tant to keep the area around open flames clear of pa­pers and de­bris. Have a work­ing fire ex­tin­guisher ready, and make sure ev­ery­one knows how to use it.

Be vig­i­lant about han­dling raw meat hy­gien­i­cally, which in­cludes keep­ing hands and uten­sils clean.

With cooked food, be sure it’s back in the fridge no more than two hours af­ter serv­ing. And be aware of any se­ri­ous food al­ler­gies among your house­guests.

A few fi­nal thoughts: Have your first-aid kit stocked and ready to go. Re­mind house­guests to keep all med­i­ca­tions safely out of sight and be­yond reach. Un­plug all lights at night and when you leave the house. Be aware of the var­i­ous bat­ter­ies that power toys, games and elec­tron­ics use, as some of them are quite small. Be pre­pared and know the symp­toms of se­vere food poi­son­ing, which can in­clude per­sis­tent vom­it­ing or di­ar­rhea, bloody stools, de­hy­dra­tion, dizzi­ness and fever of over 102 de­grees Fahren­heit. If some­one falls se­ri­ously ill, it’s bet­ter to call 911 than to drive them for med­i­cal help. EMTS can ini­ti­ate life-sav­ing pro­ce­dures upon ar­rival. And fi­nally, find and post the phone num­ber of your lo­cal poi­son con­trol cen­ter.

You can also get help from the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Poi­son Con­trol Cen­ters at 1-800-222-1222, or aapcc. org.


Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an in­ternist and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of medicine at UCLA Health. El­iz­a­beth Ko, M.D., is an in­ternist and as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of medicine at UCLA Health.


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