Be Holly, Jolly and Safe

This holiday season, make your home a place for celebration and relaxation without any trips to the emergency room!  These quick tips can keep your home, family, pets and guests holly, jolly and safe.

Electrical hazards

Strings of lights, the latest electronic devices and high tech toys have been holiday traditions practically since electricity was discovered!  Today, however, many of these electrical and battery-powered products are imported from overseas.  Health Canada recommends that people use caution when choosing and using these products to prevent injury.   Look for recognized Certification or Field Evaluation marks.  Health Canada provides examples of these marks: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/advisories-avis/_2008/2008_180-eng.php.  Uncertified products can lead to electrical shock and fire, resulting in property damage, injury, and even death. 

When decorating with strings of lights, pay particular attention to the type and wear.  Lights that are marked as “outdoor” or “exterior” are the only types that are safe to use outdoors.  Indoor lights used outdoors pose a serious fire hazard since they are not designed to withstand significant amounts of moisture and temperature variations.  The same rules apply to using extension cords.  Before hanging any lights, check for signs of wear.  Remember, duct tape is not a safe way to repair an exposed wire!  Unless you are a trained electrician, invest in a new string of lights and enjoy peace of mind this season. 

Batteries are used in many children's toys, but they do contain harmful substances like acids and heavy metals.  Avoid battery-powered toys for babies and toddlers since they will not understand the hazards of placing a battery in their mouth, swallowing it or touching a leaking battery.  With supervision and guidance, older children can understand the hazards and learn to play safely. 

Product recalls Healthy Canada recommends that consumers ensure that their gifts have not been recently recalled by manufacturers.  For an up-to-date list of product recalls, advisories and warnings in Canada, visit the Consumer Product Recall Database(www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/advisories-avis/index-eng.php).

Food

Parties and dinners are hallmarks of the season but they can also be potentially dangerous for people with allergies.  Allergic reactions can develop within seconds and range from rashes to asphyxiation (blocked airways).  If you are hosting a large gathering, it is difficult to know the food preferences and allergies of all of your guests.  Although the responsibility lies with guests for making their allergies known, consider these precautions:

    -  Avoid or offer alternatives to these eight common allergy triggers: peanuts, shellfish, milk, soy, wheat, eggs and nuts.

    -  Label dishes with their ingredients.  During a busy party, if someone inquires, you may not recall everything that went into your appetizers, dips, etc.  For store bought items, which can have numerous ingredients, simply cut the ingredient label from the packaging and tape it to a card.  These steps allow guests with food allergies to enjoy with confidence.

Another common problem at this time of year is food poisoning.  From undercooked turkey to unrefrigerated dips, food can be teaming with bacteria.  Some types of bacteria such as e-Coli can be deadly while more common bacteria overgrowth will cause stomach upset and nausea.  To be sure the roast or turkey is completely cooked by testing with a kitchen thermometer.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator promptly.  If you anticipate a lengthy party, consider putting sauces and dips on ice. 

Health Canada reminds people to avoid double dipping, which means dipping, taking a bite and dipping again.  This practice spreads infectious diseases such as colds and flu.  Also, avoid sharing utensils and supervise children at the buffet table since their little fingers tend to get into everything!

When guests are ready to leave, check for signs of alcohol impairment.  Keep your friends and family safe and avoid potential litigation by suggesting a cab, your couch or a passenger seat in a friend’s vehicle!

Pets

Food can also be a safety concern for pets despite all the questionable things (including shoes) that they will eat if given the chance!  With all the treats available during the holidays, pets have many more opportunities to get into trouble.  The following foods are toxic or poisonous to cats and dogs: chocolate, raisins, grapes, mushrooms, green tomatoes, potatoes, onions and garlic.  Keep these foods safely stored out of their reach.  Sometimes, even healthy food can be too much of a good thing; during parties, discourage guests from sharing their meals.

Pets can also be susceptible to things most of us would never consider eating.  The lovely red and green leaves of Poinsettias are also attractive to cats and dogs – as a snack.  Unfortunately, this plant is toxic to pets.  Ferns, lilies, flowering bulbs and aloe vera are other common hazards.  You can satisfy your pet’s desire to munch on greenery by growing a pot of catnip for cats and wheatgrass for dogs.

With the lights strung with care, children cheerfully playing and everyone enjoying good food and cheer, it will be another holiday to remember—for all the right reasons.

Enjoy the holidays and learn more about home ownership here!

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