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Holiday Hazards 

christmas tree  

It’s time to Poison Proof your Home for the Holidays!

Each year, Poison Centers throughout the country see an increase in poison exposures with children during the holiday season. Relatives and friends are visiting and parties are abundant. It’s easy to get distracted, even for a few minutes.

The following are some tips from the Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center on how to have a safe and healthy holiday season.

Food Poisoning
Thawing turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature. The "danger zone" is between 40 and 140°F — the temperature range where food borne bacteria multiply rapidly. While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely, but as soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again, if it is in the "danger zone." Bacteria present on raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils and work surfaces as you prepare the turkey. If these areas are not cleaned thoroughly before working with other foods, bacteria from the raw poultry can then be transferred to other foods. After working with raw poultry, always wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces before they touch other foods.

Lock up medicines, especially when families visit. Many adult medicines can poison children, even if they swallow only one or two pills. Remind family members who might be visiting that a child is curious and may look into bags or reach for medications on the counter. Medications given to seniors often do not have child-resistant closures, which allows children to open them with very little difficulty. Also, purses of visitors may contain medicines and other potentially dangerous items.

Poisonous Plants
  • Pines, Spruces, Balsam and Firs
    Ingestion of small amounts may result in varying degrees of localized irritation and gastrointestinal upset. A primary concern would be aspiration or airway obstruction. Pinecones are not toxic, although contact dermatitis may result from handling.
  • Poinsettia Plants (Christmas flower)
    Poinsettia plants were once thought to be very poisonous. Contrary to earlier beliefs, poinsettias are safe to have in the home during the holidays. Ingestion of a leaf or two has not resulted in significant symptoms. Poinsettia plants have a mild irritant, which can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The milky sap from the flower may cause skin irritation.
  • Holly, Mistletoe, Jerusalem Cherry and Bittersweet
    These are all poisonous holiday plants and should not be placed where children can reach them. Watch for dried berries that may have fallen to the floor.
    Holly - The stiff green leaves and bright red berries are extremely attractive to children. Holly berries are significantly poisonous. Ingestion of 20 berries can result in a child's death.
    Mistletoe - The berries, leaves, and stem are all considered toxic. Contact the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 if ingestion of any amount occurs.
    Jerusalem Cherry - This plant contains bright orange to scarlet-colored berries. The entire plant is toxic. Call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 if ingested in any amount.
    Bittersweet - All parts of this plant are considered toxic. The unripe berries contain the highest concentration of Solanine, a poisonous ingredient, which causes heart rate to dip below 60, sedation and headaches.

Carbon Monoxide

Install carbon monoxide detectors to protect your household against this deadly gas, which is odorless and colorless. Be careful with these things that give off carbon monoxide:

  • Gas and wood cooking stoves. DO NOT use them to heat the house.
  • Barbecue and gas grills. Use them at least 10 feet or 3 meters away from the house.
  • Gas furnace and water heater. Have them checked once a year. A furnace repairman can check your furnace. A plumber can check your water heater.
  • Cars and trucks. Do not leave a car or truck running in the garage even with the door open. 
  • Gasoline power electric generators. Use them at least 10 feet or 3 meters away from the house.


With new toys come batteries! Button batteries are flat-shaped, coin-like batteries which are commonly used in watches, cameras, hearing aids, games and calculators, and are attractive to children and easy to swallow.  If swallowed, they can get lodged in the esophagus (tube leading from the mouth to the stomach), and this is a medical emergency. Store batteries as safely as you do medicines and household products!

Alcohol and Tobacco

Appoint one person to watch the children during an event, and then clean up all alcoholic beverages and ashtrays immediately after the guests leave. Cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco contain enough nicotine to be dangerous to children, who are known to eat whole cigarettes and drink from spittoons. Children can become intoxicated by a very small amount of alcohol. It can also cause a child's blood sugar to fall to dangerous levels.

If you suspect a poisoning of any kind has occurred, call your poison center right away at 1-800-222-1222. The Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center is staffed with experienced, certified health care providers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including during holidays.
Banner Good Samaritan
Poison and Drug Information Center
24-hour phone: 1-800-222-1222
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