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Visiting for the Holidays – Be Sure to Childproof the Home

Provided by Prince William Fire & Rescue

The Christmas holiday is an exciting time of year, with the anticipation of gifts yet to be opened, and spending time with family and friends tends to make the season more delightful. Holiday decorations, traveling, new toys, and visiting homes that may not be childproofed, can put your child in danger. Although parents think they’ll be able to watch their child more closely, even if the house they’re visiting isn’t childproofed, it’s hard to do, especially if there are a lot of family and friends present and the kids are all playing together. Therefore, be mindful of your child’s safety for the leading cause of death among children are accidents.

Most parents understand the importance of childproofing their homes, e.g., gates across the stairs, installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and keeping household poisons out of reach of children are fairly standard in many homes. But there are seasonal risks as well, such as holiday decorations, games, food and beverages in which younger children can be harmed if the home isn’t childproofed before the festivities and reevaluated again during and after the festivities.

You’ll often find a home isn’t childproofed if you are visiting someone who doesn’t usually have children in the house, e.g., parents/grandparents, friends, coworkers, etc. In addition to not having general child-proofing safety measures, i.e. locks on cabinets, gates across stairs, or covers on electrical outlets, they may also have prescription medications lying about that aren’t in child resistant containers. Medications often attract young children due to the variety of colors, to children, they resemble candy. Therefore, be vigilant in keeping medications stored away; learn the poison control number and keep it posted by the phone in case of an emergency.

You should be especially watchful for and/or want to ask about these items prior to visiting someone’s home:

  • Do they have a pool? Does it have a fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate? Can the children get to the area where the pool is located?
  • Are there guns in the house? Are they stored unloaded in a locked box with the bullets locked separately?
  • Are there small objects, such as hard candy or nuts in candy dishes, where younger children can get them?
  • Are there gates across the stairs?
  • Are medications, poisons and household cleaners out of reach?
  • Do they have a pet that may harm the children, such as a Rottweiler, Pit Bull or German shepherd?
  • If your child has food allergies, will they be serving that food?

Toy Safety:

  • Select safe toys to suit the age, abilities, skills, and interest level of the intended child.
  • Check toys regularly for small parts, breakage and potential hazards, including chipped or peeling paint. Damaged or dangerous toys should be repaired or thrown away.
  • Teach older children to keep their toys away from younger children.
  • When buying a bicycle, scooter, skates, or other sporting goods, buy a helmet and appropriate safety pads.

“Holidays should be memorable, fun-filled events to share with family and friends for generations to follow,” states Prince William County Fire & Rescue Chief Kevin McGee. “Take the necessary precautions to keep your loved ones safe during the holiday season and throughout the year.”

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