Top Tips to Keeping Your Family Safe During the Holidays


The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes family gatherings, delicious food and festive decorations, and typically, in the months of December and January, the risk of winter-related illness, injuries and accidents for not just you, but also your kiddos.

“Every year we see a spike in emergency room visits during the holidays,” says UnityPoint Health – Des Moines Trauma Services Program Manager Sherry Olson. “People tend to delay care this time of year and are generally put in higher risk situations as they prep and travel for holidays.”

In order to keep this holiday seasons a season of safety for the entire family, Olson and the rest of the emergency staff at UnityPoint Health – Des Moines urge you to preserve the fun of the holidays while paying attention to a few safety precautions.

Cold weather

  • According to the American Heart Associate, cold winter weather and holiday stress increases risk of heart attack. Parents (and grandparents!) should spend minimal time outside and seek immediate care if symptoms arise.
  • Bundle up! Avoid frostbite by wearing thick layers of clothing, a hat, gloves and scarf. Frostbite can take several forms, including redness or pain in a skin area, a white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy or numbness.
  • Select appropriate footwear for your family’s next winter outing, especially boots with rubber or neoprene composite soles for better traction on ice and snow than leather and plastic and to avoid winter slips, trips and falls.

Holiday lighting and decorating

  • Curious kids might want to play with the ornaments on the tree. Move ornaments that are breakable or have metal hooks towards the top of the tree to make room for the more kid-friendly ornaments at the bottom.
  • Choose a safe place to display your tree, keeping it away from heat sources and doorways. Though an artificial tree labeled fire-resistant is safest, if you choose to display a real tree, keep it watered and dispose of it immediately after the holidays. A dry tree is a fire hazard.
  • Use no more than three standard-sized sets of lights per extension cord. Never place an open flame around flammable objects. Turn off all lights and blow out all candles when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Parents, you should be in charge of hanging all decorations. Hang decorations using a sturdy step stool rather than standing on furniture. For decorations that call for a portable ladder, make sure to inspect the ladder prior to using it and to maintain three-point contact (two hands and a foot or two feet and a hand) when climbing.

Holiday travel

  •  Seventy-three percent of car seats are not used or installed correctly, so before you leave, make sure your child’s car seat is safe. Check the label on your car seat to make sure it’s appropriate for your child’s age, weight and height. Talk to a certified child passenger safety technician if you have any concerns, questions or troubles.
  • Make sure all passengers wear seatbelts when inside a vehicle and that children age 13 and under ride in the back seat. Kids who have outgrown a forward-facing harness seat are not ready for a seat belt or front seat yet and are safest in a booster seat.
  • Leave at least an extra hour earlier to give yourself more time than usual in case of construction, road closings, traffic hurdles or weather conditions. Don’t be afraid to stop or change your course in the event of poor driving conditions.
  • Have your vehicle examined before you travel to ensure its safe to travel in all types of weather conditions. Pack a winter safety kit for the car just in case you get stranded, including a cell phone charger; ice scraper; two rope and jumper cables; sand or cat litter to aid with traction; blankets; flashlights; matches and emergency candle; first aid kit; and a portable radio.
  • Winter travel can be a frequent contributor to the cold and flu time of year, so before you leave, make sure everyone six months or older in your family gets their flu vaccine. Vaccination is particularly important for those at high risk of serious complications from influenza, including children younger than 5 years, pregnant women and adults older than 65 years.

Kitchen hazards

  • Kids love to reach, so to prevent burns from hot holiday food or liquid spills, use the back burner of the stove and turn pot handles away from the edge.
  • Teach age-appropriate kids how to cook safely. Include teaching points, such as to never leave a kitchen unattended and to always use oven mitts or potholders when dealing with hot items in the stove, microwave or oven.

Holiday food and choking hazards

  • Beware of food allergies like peanut allergies and holiday foods that may cause a child to choke, such as grapes, hard candies and nuts.
  • Choose children’s gifts wisely by avoiding sharp edges or pieces that can break off and be swallowed by a child.
  • If your child will be left in the care of a babysitter or childcare provider, write down emergency numbers, hospital preferences and your phone number where you can be reached in case of emergency.

Guest Article Provided by: UnityPoint Health – Des Moines reminds you to be safe and enjoy the holidays. If you do happen to find yourself in an emergency, remember Central Iowa’s only Level 1 Trauma Center at Iowa Methodist Medical Center and Level II Pediatric Trauma Center at Blank Children’s Hospital are nearby and readily available to handle all major trauma situations this holiday season.


Erin Huiatt

Erin is a reliable resource and stepping stone for women and families to find support and make connections within our community. She wants families to feel confident to reach out and ask for help and advice to get pointed in the right direction. She enjoys traveling and exploring with her two children in tow!

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