Twinkly lights, candles, holiday trees and plants, ornaments and other decorations are an important part of holiday celebrations. Besides being festive and fun, the decorations your family brings out every year can help children feel connected to family traditions. To help make sure your decorations are safe, the American Academy of Pediatrics, healthychildren.org, offers some tips:

• When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. The needles should be hard to pull off, and shouldn’t break when you bend them. Cut a few inches off the bottom of the trunk before putting it in the stand, and be sure to keep the stand filled with water.

• If you have an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled “Fire Resistant.”

• When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and don’t block doorways.

• Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree.

• Check all lights before hanging them on a tree or in your home, even if you have just purchased them. Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.

• Be cautious about trimmings that may contain lead. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded materials. Light strands may contain lead in the bulb sockets and wire coating, sometimes in high amounts. Make sure your lights are out of reach of young children who might try to put lights in their mouths, and wash your hands after handling them.

• Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use. To hold lights in place, string them through hooks or insulated staples, not nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them. Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.

• When lighting candles, remove flammable materials from the area, and place the candles where they will not be knocked over. Never leave a burning candle unattended. Don’t use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens.

• In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a young child to eat them.

• Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass “angel hair.” Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.

• Remove all wrapping papers, bags, paper, ribbons and bows from tree and fireplace areas after gifts are opened. These items can pose suffocation and choking hazards to a small child, or can cause a fire if near flame.

• Keep potentially poisonous holiday plant decorations, including mistletoe berries, Jerusalem cherry, and holly berry, away from children.

Have a safe, healthy holiday season.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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