Holiday Hazards Within A Child’s Easy Reach

Be aware of holiday hazards within a child’s easy reach! Our homes are filled with Christmas flowers, ornaments and table adornments. While it provides a rich ambiance, the novelty and attractiveness create an appeal to a young child that is hard to resist. With young children, everything goes into their mouth.

hollyAs the holidays approach, we associate with certain plants like Holly, Poinsettia, Amaryllis, Cactus and Mistletoe in stores. For visual attractiveness, they are added around our homes. It makes a statement to see brightly red Holly bushes lined-up on our front steps or the red or white Poinsettia under our decorated tree. Sadly, many of the plants are highly toxic. In addition, holiday celebrations include small size ornaments and bite-size food items that create choking hazards to young children. As a reminder, I have listed a few of the most poisonous plants and a small list of food items and objects to avoid if a child is in the environment.

Holiday Plants to Avoid

Holly Berries

The holly berries provide the perfect adornment on our mantels and in our wreaths, but the entire bush is toxic. While the bark, seeds and leaves are toxic, the berries can be deadly if a child or animal consumes more than a few. My advice is to not have this plant in or around your home. The poison is Theobromine, the same as in chocolate. But the concentration is much higher in the holly bush.


With Mistletoe green all year, an old myth began to relate it to fertility. For many years, there has been a custom about kissing under the Mistletoe. But, Mistletoe is poisonous to children and pets. The toxin is Phoradendron. When digested, it causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood pressure changes and even death. Keep this plant away from children and pets. Seek medical advice if your child has been near this plant and begins experiencing any of the symptoms.

Amaryllis, Narcissus and Daffodils

The leaves are less toxic than the bulbs. The toxicity is Lycorine. The victim of this poisoning will experience abdominal pain, cardiac issues and convulsions.

Other Plants

Other plants like Christmas Cactus, Cedar Christmas Trees, Jerusalem Cherry and Poinsettia may cause stomach aches if digested in small amounts, but they are not typically lethal.

Poison Control

If a child ingests a poisonous plant, call the Poison Control Center. Do not make someone vomit unless you are instructed by a representative from the PCC.

The World Directory of Poison Centers is a useful resource. You can find local numbers in case of emergencies here.


Choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death in children under the age of five. These accidents are caused by food, toys and other items around the home. At least one child dies from choking every five days.


Cautions should be taken with candles, angel hair, lights and ornaments for choking hazards. Children are very sensory. They put everything in their mouth as a way to explore their world. Small objects lodge in a child’s small airway, anything that fits is dangerous.


Many of us have family gatherings with pick-up foods. Some of the food items may fit perfectly in a child’s small airway causing choking…

  • Hot dogs (especially cut into a coin shape), meats, sausages and fish with bones
  • Popcorn, chips, pretzel nuggets and snack foods
  • Candy (especially hard or sticky candy), cough drops, gum, lollipops, marshmallows, caramels, hard candies and jelly beans
  • Whole grapes, raw vegetables, raw peas, fruits, fruits with skins, seeds, carrots, celery and cherries
  • Dried fruits, sunflower seeds, all nuts, including peanuts
  • Peanut butter, especially in spoonfuls or with soft white bread
  • Ice cubes and cheese cubes
  • Foods that clump, are sticky or slippery, or dry and hard textured
  • Food size and shape, especially round or a shape that could conform to the shape and size of the windpipe. The size of a young child’s windpipe is around the size of a drinking straw in diameter.

Toys and Household Items

Check all toys for potential lose parts. All toys should be big enough to prevent them from going into a child’s mouth. I once heard about a child that was choking on a Ketchup lid; the parent quickly used the Heimlich Maneuver.


  • Latex balloons
  • Coins
  • Marbles
  • Toys with small parts
  • Small balls
  • Marker caps
  • Small stones
  • Any toy or other object that is labeled as a potential choking hazard

First Aid for Choking

If a child shows the symptoms of choking such as gasping, can’t talk, grabs their throat and/or makes a high pitch sound, the adult should do the following:

  • Call for emergency help
  • Begin abdominal thrusts, if trained.

If the child is coughing, they may be able to expel the object on their own.

Check out Kids Health for some additional support.


  1. Complete a home survey and remove all toxic plants and small objects out of reach of children.
  2. Sign up for First Aid class which should include emergency responses for choking such as abdominal thrusts and CPR.
  3. Young children should not eat nuts, raw carrots, popcorn and hard or gooey candy.


Have you got any handy household tips to keep your little ones out of trouble around this time of year? Let usknow in the comments below.

We wish you the very best this holiday season, but remember to keep safe!


Feature image courtesy of Flickr,  4Nzik (title image) and FireandWhispers (holly).

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