Holiday Safety

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Injury Prevention Team

Holiday Safety

Extra Care Can Prevent Injury During the Holidays

Your kids love big bangs on the Fourth of July, scares on Halloween and surprises over the holidays. These are all unwelcome guests at your festivities when they cause as critical injuries. Taking time to exercise a little extra caution is a great way for parents to prevent trauma.

Our Experts Emphasize Holiday Safety

Injury prevention is not only part of our mission at University Health, it’s an entire team of experts within our Trauma Department. Our health educators are dedicated to adult and pediatric safety initiatives, and all are certified child passenger safety technicians. Our experts work with and in the community year-round and emphasize injury prevention over the summer and around holidays, especially near the Fourth of July, Halloween and the end of the year.

Our injury prevention team provides holiday safety education so you can enjoy your time with family and friends, not in our trauma center. Follow these tips to enjoy your next holiday safely.

Fireworks are fun for kids of all ages. Unfortunately, fireworks can cause serious injuries, including pediatric burns and other critical injuries. The best way to keep your children safe is to attend well-controlled, professionally supervised public fireworks displays.

If you plan to use fireworks at your home, follow these guidelines to keep your kids as safe as possible:

  • Keep children and other observers at a safe distance away from lit fireworks.
  • Point fireworks away from homes, brush, dry grass, leaves and other flammable substances.
  • Keep a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Use glow sticks instead of sparklers. Sparklers can reach 1,200 degrees and burn young ones.
  • Never hold lit fireworks in your hand.
  • Don’t allow children to pick up the spent fireworks; some may still be active and very hot.

Of course, if your child or one of your guests is injured, seek medical attention immediately.

Long holiday weekends are perfect for spending time with friends and neighbors in the backyard, at the campsite or on the water. As long as you prepare for the risks, your time can be safe and enjoyable at any location.

Charcoal Grill Guidelines

  • Keep children safely away from the barbecue fire.
  • When using lighter or starter fluid, move the container well away from the grill before lighting the coals. After soaking the coals, wait a minute before lighting the coals. (Never use gasoline as a starter fluid or accelerant, and never add starter fluid to hot or even warm coals.)
  • Wear an insulated, fire retardant barbecue mitt when lighting pre-soaked coals.
  • Barbecue lighters are made for adults. They are not safe for children.
  • If you use a lighter to start a gas barbecue, always turn on the lighter before you turn on the grill's gas or propane.

Campfire Guidelines

  • When camping out, take special care with flammable liquids and open flames near tents. Make sure your tent is made of flame-retardant fabric.
  • Build your fire downwind, far away from tents.
  • Make sure the fire is properly extinguished when unattended.
  • Supervise children at all times around a campfire.

Swim Safety

  • Actively supervise children in and around water with your undivided attention.
  • Stay within an arm’s length of infants and toddlers around water.
  • When there are several adults present and children are swimming, designate an adult to watch the water and take turns to prevent any lapses in supervision.
  • Make sure kids swim only in areas designated for swimming.
  • Help children understand the difference between swimming in open water versus a swimming pool. They need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather.
  • Teach children to always swim with a partner and never go near the water without an adult present.

Get more swim safety tips.

Boat Safety

  • Insist your children wear a jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while on boats, around open bodies of water or when participating in water sports. Water wings, noodles and other pool accessories should never be used as a substitute.
  • Infants and young kids are at a higher risk for hypothermia, especially out on the water. Keep your children warm with a dry blanket or towel.
  • It is strongly recommended not to drink alcoholic beverages while boating.

Get more boat safety tips.

The combination of excitement, limited visibility and drivers arriving home at dusk creates a potentially dangerous environment for your kids. Based on our experience, we focus on three primary areas to prevent injuries on Halloween:


Make sure the costume your child picks is safe and visible. Your safety check should begin from the ground up:

  • Ensure your child’s costume isn’t too long or it may cause trips and falls.
  • Have your child wear athletic shoes with a non-slip sole.
  • It’s best to avoid costume footwear, such as clown shoes, slippers, high heels or decorative shoe covers.
  • Double-check that your child’s shoelaces are tied and that the costume doesn’t inhibit their ability to re-tie during trick-or-treating.

Swords, knives and other costume accessories should be short, soft and flexible. Do not use toy guns.

Choose non-toxic makeup versus an ill-fitting mask. Masks can make it difficult for your kids to see where they are walking. If a mask is used, however, make sure it fits securely and has eyeholes large enough to allow full vision.

Also avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts.


It’s a good idea to go along with children under 12. Remind your kids to be safe by taking these extra precautions on streets and sidewalks on Halloween:

  • Cross at corners, obey traffic signals and always use crosswalks.
  • Stick to sidewalks and paths, face traffic and walk — don’t run — across streets.
  • Never cross between parked cars.
  • Check driveways before crossing.
  • Stay away from lit candles and luminaries while walking.

Also, be sure to decorate their costumes with reflective tape or stickers and have your kids carry a glow stick or flashlight.


Don’t send your kids out on an empty stomach. Feed them a light meal or snack before they head out of the house. Urge kids to avoid snacking while trick-or-treating so you have a chance to inspect their goodies first. Throw away anything suspicious, unwrapped or in a torn or faded wrapper.

Parents of very young children should remove any choking hazards, such as gum, peanuts, hard candies or small toys. Children under 5 should not eat small, round or hard foods.

Review this additional Halloween safety information, including safe driving tips.

No matter what holidays you celebrate in December, keeping kids safe during the holidays is at the top of everyone’s wish list.


Many people start the holidays by decorating their home, and that’s where safety starts, too. Adults often sustain fractures or even more serious injuries from falling off ladders while decorating their home.

Follow these ladder safety tips:

  • Don’t use a ladder alone. Have someone hold the ladder.
  • Do not use chairs, tables or anything with wheels to hang decorations.
  • Make sure the ladder is secure and on level ground before climbing.
  • Space the base of the ladder one foot away from the wall for every four feet it extends upward.
  • Stay centered between the rails of the ladder, and don’t overreach. Move the ladder.
  • Don’t stand on the top two rungs of the ladder.
  • Extend the ladder at least three feet beyond the edge of the roof.
  • Keep the area clear around the top and bottom of the ladder.
  • Ensure step ladders are locked securely in the open position. Never use a folding step ladder in a closed position.

Once you move indoors to decorate the tree, keep your younger children safe by placing breakable ornaments out of reach. As you string the lights, look for any exposed or frayed wires. And, if you choose a real tree, be sure to give it plenty of water as these can become fire hazards if they dry out.

Keep candles away from anything that can burn. Always blow candles out before you leave the room or go to sleep. Keep matches and lighters in a safe place.


Read instructions and warning labels before buying toys for your children. Pay special attention to the age appropriateness of each toy, especially if you have young children, to avoid any small parts or button batteries.

Meal Preparation

Hosting friends and family around the holidays can make for hectic schedules, especially when you’re planning to cook. Enlisting the help of your older kids can help cut the workload:

  • Teach them to be safe in the kitchen to avoid burns.
  • Instruct kids to stay in the kitchen while they are using the stove or oven.
  • Insist older kids use oven mitts or potholders to remove items from the oven or stove.

Once the meal is ready and the table is set, take extra caution with hot foods and liquids, especially when you have young children to keep safe in the home:

  • Keep hot drinks away from the edge of tables and counters.
  • Avoid using long, decorative tablecloths in homes with children learning to walk, as they may pull on the tablecloth to stand up and pull off hot food or drinks.
  • Don’t carry children while preparing or serving hot food.
  • Don’t carry children while drinking a hot beverage.
  • Don’t set anything hot on tabletops within reach of young children.