Healthy Living: December 10, 2019

Published: Dec. 10, 2019 at 4:10 PM EST
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The holidays are a special time, steeped in tradition and bringing families and communities together. While decorations are a fun and important part of this time, there are safety considerations to be mindful of.

Christmas Trees

For many families, a Christmas tree is the centerpiece of the season. If you buy a pre-cut live tree you want it to be as fresh as possible. Choose one with branches that bend (not break) and with needles that do not easily pull or shake off. The trunk of a fresh tree will also have a sticky trunk butt. Cutting a little more of the trunk off just before putting it in its stand will expose even fresher wood which absorbs water better. Be sure to keep the tree stand full of water. Otherwise, even the freshest tree will dry out quickly.

Keep Christmas trees at least 3 feet away from ANY heat source - this including fireplaces, radiators, wood stoves, baseboards, portable heaters and even decorative candles. Make sure it is out of the way of traffic and not blocking any doorways or exits.

Artificial trees should be labeled "fire resistant".


Multiple traditional holiday plants are potentially poisonous. This includes mistletoe berries, Jerusalem cherry and Holly berry. It is best to avoid these for households where children are/will be present.


Check all of your lights before hanging them, even if they are brand new. Every bulb should be in working order and there should be no loose sockets/cracked areas/other defects. Don't string together more than the recommended number of strands. Light strands may also contain lead in the bulb socket and wire coating so it's very important to keep them out of reach of youngsters.

Outdoor lights should be certified for this use and should be hung using noncombustible hooks or insulated staples available just for safely hanging decorative lights. Never use nails, tacks or plain staples. Always use plugs with ground fault circuit interrupters


Candles are a traditional decoration for many families. These should be carefully kept away from any trees, greenery, or other flammable material. Candle holders must be non-flammable and only placed on secure surfaces where they will not be knocked over, and of course lit candles should never be left unattended.

Ornaments/Trimmings must also be flame resistant or non-combustible. Again, be wary of products that contain lead. Ornaments that are small, sharp, breakable, or have removable parts should be well out of the reach or avoided all together in homes with small children. The same is true of ornaments that look like candy or other treats.


Promptly discard wrapping paper, bags, bows, and ribbons as they can become fire, choking, and suffocation hazards. It is important to never burn these items as they can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.


Holiday Decorations Safety Tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics, 2018

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