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January 6, 2011

Blue Ridge Poison Center Tips for Keeping Children Safe During the Holidays

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The Blue Ridge Poison Center at the University of Virginia Health System (available every day at 800-222-1222 or 800-451-1428 from a cell phone) receives more calls about children under the age of 6 than any other age group. As you welcome family and friends into your home for Christmas and New Year’s or head out to holiday parties, take a few extra minutes of planning to keep children safe from poisons they may not normally be able to access. Here are some tips to keep kids safe over the holidays:

Provide your guests with a safe place to store purses, suitcases, and toiletry bags. Guests may bring prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs or personal products like mouthwash or perfume that can be harmful to a child if swallowed. These items are often left where children can reach them, such as in a suitcase, purse or on a bedside table. Don’t leave alcoholic beverages unattended. Be sure that glasses containing alcoholic beverages are emptied immediately after use; don’t wait until the morning after a party. Store alcohol in a locked cabinet out of the sight and reach of children. Even a small amount of alcohol can be deadly to a child. Watch for toy recalls. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission continues to uncover toys in our stores that contain unsafe amounts of lead, cadmium, or other substances. Sign up to receive free notice of all recalls at . Keep plants away from very young children. Babies and toddlers are attracted to plants, especially colorful berries and soft leaves. Holiday plants such as mistletoe, holly berries, bulbs (including paperwhites) or Jerusalem Cherry could be toxic if swallowed. Even non-toxic plants like poinsettias can pose a choking hazard or irritate a child’s mouth and throat. A more complete list of toxic indoor or outdoor plants can be found on the Blue Ridge Poison Center’s website: . Keep an eye on button batteries. These tiny, flat, coin-like batteries are commonly used in watches, cameras, hearing aids, games and toys. If swallowed, they may stick in the throat or stomach, causing serious burns as the battery’s chemicals leak out. Be prepared! Keep the Blue Ridge Poison Center’s toll-free numbers (800-222-1222 or 800-451-1428 from a cell phone) near every phone. Poison experts are standing by 24 hours a day, every day – including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day – to offer free, confidential advice and information. Most of the time, callers can be instructed on how to treat a poisoning at home without a trip to the doctor. Don’t wait for symptoms to develop. Call right away if someone: Swallowed something they shouldn’t have consumed. Made a mistake with medicines. Breathed a chemical fume or gas. Spilled or sprayed a chemical product on their skin or in their eyes.

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