When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant."
When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is less of a fire hazard. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will help to keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use. To hold lights in place, string them through hooks or insulated staples, not nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them.
Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair." Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
Follow recommended age ranges on toy packages. Toys that are too advanced could be a safety hazard for younger children. Before buying a toy or allowing your child to play with a toy that he has received as a gift, read the instructions carefully. If the toy is appropriate for your child, show him how to use it properly.
Be careful of holiday gift wrapping, like bags, paper, ribbons and bows. These items can pose suffocation and choking hazards to a small child. To prevent both burns and electrical shocks, don't give young children (under age ten) a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy toys that are battery-operated.
Children under age three can choke on small parts contained in toys or games. Government regulations specify that toys for children under age three cannot have parts less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long. Children under age 8 can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Remove strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children.
Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length. They could be a strangulation hazard for babies.
Make sure your children dress warm if the temperature drops. Insure gloves and shoes stay dry. If either becomes wet, change your child into a dry pair.
Playing with that new bike, skates, or other gifts on or near the street can be dangerous. Sledding on or into the roadway should be prohibited. Look for shallow slopes that are free of obstacles such as trees and fences. (This one is for our northern friends.)
Cutting down your own tree for the holiday may start a wonderful family tradition. Young children can pick out the tree while an adult does the chopping or cutting.
Bacteria are often present in raw foods. Fully cook meats and poultry, thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruits. Always keep raw foods and cooked foods separate, and use separate utensils when preparing them. Be sure to keep hot liquids and foods away from edges of counters and tables where they may easily be knocked over by a young child's exploring hands.
Wash your hands frequently, and make sure your children do the same. Never put a spoon, used to taste, back into the food or drink without washing it first. Always thaw meat in the refrigerator, never on the countertop. Foods that require refrigeration should never be left at room temperature for more than two hours.
Clean up immediately after a holiday party. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco. Remember that the homes you visit may not be childproofed. Keep an eye out for danger spots.
Keep a laminated list with all of the important phone numbers you or a baby-sitter are likely to need in case of an emergency. Include the police and fire department, your pediatrician and the poison control center.
Ask your neighbor if he has a gun before sending your kids over to play. If the answer is yes, you need to make absolutely sure that all guns are stored unloaded and locked - ideally in a gun safe - with ammunition locked separately. Include the question along with other things you might normally discuss before sending your child to someone's house.
Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely. Remember that starting a fire, adding wood, and cutting wood are all jobs for adults.