We don't mean to be kill-joys during the most joyous time of the year, but the stats don't lie: According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 12,500 of you have to leave the company of your loved ones to rush to the emergency room due to holiday-related accidental injuries. Here are some common holiday dangers that are overlooked by distracted holiday revelers more often than you might think. Take a look, know the warning signs, and you'll be the first to know if you, your loved ones, or your pets are victims of a toxic Christmas.
If your sniffling and sneezing coincide with the arrival of your freshly cut Christmas tree, you could be reacting to skyrocketing mold spore counts. If you must have a real tree in your home, prevent allergic reactions for guests and loved ones by hosing your tree down, spraying it with a mold-resistant sealant like M-1 Sure Cote, and allowing it to dry before bringing it indoors.
Mold spore counts might be lower with living trees, and lower still with artificial trees. But, keep in mind that some mold can grow on living trees in nature and that dust accumulates while artificial trees are in storage. Also, ask growers about the pollination behavior of your tree: Mountain cedar trees pollinate in late November to early December, so allergy sufferers should steer clear of that variety. Allergy sufferers should consider wearing an allergy relief mask while decorating and keeping an air purifier in the room of the display.
Having a holiday party? Odds are there'll be some grown-up party drinks to toast the season and, perhaps, some kids scampering about. Again, children can be quite curious and love to imitate adults. Alcohol poisoning is not uncommon with young ones during the holidays, considering half-empty drink glasses may be left around and forgotten. Be sure to ask guests to dispose of their leftovers appropriately, or take special care to do it yourself.
If you're baking this holiday, keep your ingredients stored in a high cabinet and not anyplace where your pup could get to them. Theobromine, a compound present in chocolate that is toxic to dogs but not humans, could cause a range of symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea, seizures, coma, or even death. Potential toxic doses vary by breed size and weight, but unsweetened cocoa and baking chocolate pose the highest risk, while milk chocolate is least threatening. If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic amount of chocolate, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.
Every year, more than 500,000 people are injured as a result of falling off of ladders. If you're hanging holiday lights this year, don't do it alone; a pair of helping hands goes a long way to ensuring your safety. Make sure your ladder is level, don't overreach, and don't ascend the ladder with your hands full. Also, as marked on many models, do not step on the two uppermost treads. Close ladders when they're not in use to avoid having kids venture upward without supervision. You might also consider accessories like ladder jacks and levelers for added safety.
Tossing wrapping paper into the fireplace may seem harmless enough, but doing so poses a flash fire risk. Split hardwood is the best thing to burn, and make sure your chimney is swept and fireplace is maintained before you light it up. Never light candles-responsible for tens of thousands of fires every year-near your holiday tree or where pets and kids may be playing; an open flame near a dry tree (indicated by the shedding of excessive needles) is a major holiday fire hazard.
To that end, keep your tree away from any heat sources, like radiators and fireplaces, which will expedite the drying process. In fact, consider adding glass fireplace doors for a measure of safety. Cutting away a sliver from the bottom of your new tree's trunk will allow it to absorb more moisture and slow drying time. If holiday distractions mean tree-watering will slip your mind, consider investing in a reusable artificial tree or try an automatic watering system like the Quench-A-Tree, which looks like a wrapped gift.