For families with young children, the holiday season can be a time of great joy — but there are also dangers and health hazards parents need to be aware of. Here are some of the most common reasons children are sent to the ER during the holiday season so that you can be aware of these hazards and prevent them:

Food and/or Chemical Poisoning

During the holidays, children could potentially experience poisoning in multiple ways. Plants commonly used as holiday decorations — such as mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, and Jerusalem cherry plants — are considered potentially poisonous and should be kept out of a child’s reach. Symptoms of plant poisoning include rashes, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If your kid has eaten any part of a plant, call your doctor right away or contact the National Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Food poisoning is another health hazard during the holidays. Practice food safety when preparing holiday meals and make sure to wash all dishes and utensils that come into contact with raw meat, poultry, fish, and raw eggs.

Choking and Swallowing Hazards

There are many holiday-related decorations and objects that are potential choking hazards for small children, including tree ornaments, light bulbs, plastic icicles, tinsel, and small toys. When it comes to toys, the general rule is: if it’s small enough to fit into the mouth of a baby or toddler, it’s too small to play with. When decorating your home, keep young children in mind. Place anything potentially hazardous away from a kid’s reach and baby-proof your home the same way you would do year-round.


The holiday season could increase the risk of a fire in your home. Some tips to prevent fires during this time of year:

  • Keep your tree in a sturdy stand to make sure that it doesn’t tip over. Also check that the tree isn’t near a heat source, like electrical outlets, radiators, and portable space heaters. Only buy artificial trees that are labeled “fire-retardant.”
  • Electrical circuits overloaded with lights, decorations, and other accessories could start a fire. Use a power strip and don’t connect too many cords with the same outlet.
    If you have a fireplace, get an inspection every year before you start your first fire of the winter season. Have the fireplace cleaned by a chimney professional and use a screen when burning a fire.
  • Practice fire safety during the holiday season. Make sure all smoke detectors are working in your home prior to putting up lights or other holiday decorations.

Other Winter or Holiday-Related Accidents

There are other accidents that kids end up in the ER for during the holidays or winter months, such as:

  • Car accidents — Car accidents involving children tend to increase during the holidays. Make sure all kids are buckled up during car rides and adults should never drive after drinking alcohol. Drivers should be extra cautious on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve when there are higher incidences of impaired drivers on the road.
  • Sledding — Supervise children when sledding and stay away from dangerous areas, like steep, crowded or icy hills.

Santiam Hospital’s ER is a Trauma Level IV serving pediatrics to adults and treating major and minor illnesses and injuries. Our hospital’s emergency room is equipped to handle a wide array of emergency situations and is a point of entry into the health care system. If you or your child become ill or is involved in an accident, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1 or visit our Emergency Department to receive the care you need.