The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center
Offers Winter Holiday Safety Tips
Livingston, N.J. -- Holidays
are times when people enjoy spending with family and friends. During
this time, many choose to decorate their homes and places of work to
further cherish the holiday feeling with trees, signs, lights, and candles.
Unfortunately, the holiday season can be a time for accidents and injuries.
Any change in routine can result in problems.
Lisa Jones, Community Burn Educator for The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas
Medical Center, New Jersey’s only state certified burn treatment
facility, recalls a story shared with her by a woman who had been
badly burned while preparing a holiday dinner. As she removed the turkey
from the oven, the aluminum pan that held the large bird suddenly buckled.
The women tried to keep the pan from falling, and hot juices poured
onto her skin.
“Holidays are a deviation from the normal routine,” says
Ms. Jones. “We may visit a grandparent’s house that is not
babyproofed, or navigate a home with an unfamiliar layout, or prepare
a new meal. Accidents happen because of the newness of the situation.”
Many holidays involve candles and lights, which can have a festive
effect if used properly. Ms. Jones recommends that candles be positioned
in a glass or nonflammable container. They should be kept away from
curtains or any object that can be blown in the direction of the flame.
Lighted candles should never be left unattended.
For electric lighting, UL-approved decorations should be used and there
should never be more than three strands of lights connected into one
extension cord. Sockets should be kept dry and outdoor lighting should
only be used outside.
Educators with The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical caution that
trees and wreaths should be placed far from hot, dry places, such as
the fireplace. The freshest evergreens are the safest; needles should
bend, not drop when brushed by hand. Live decorations should never be
burned, and the same can be said for gift-wrapping.
“The inks and dyes that compose ribbons, paper and garlands break
down into poisonous gases when burned. A flash fire may result as wrappings
ignite suddenly and burn intensely,” says Ms. Jones. “Instead,
place paper and decorations in the trash.”
Households not used to having young children around should give some
thought to their safety when visiting during the holiday season. Ms.
Jones especially cautions that young children can easily be scalded
from hot foods spilled down onto them from a tabletop or kitchen counter
or suffer serious injury from playing too near a stove.
The following are additional safety tips from The Burn Center at Saint
Barnabas Medical Center:
- Keep lighters and matches away from young children.
- Check electrical lighting for fraying strand
and broken bulbs before stringing.
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house
walls, or other firm supports to protect the
lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples,
not nails or tacks, to hold strings in place.
Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available
at hardware stores).
- Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave
the house. The lights could short out and start
- Place a Christmas tree in water as soon as
possible and refill the container often.
- Purchase an artificial tree labeled "Fire
Resistant." Although this label does not mean
the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the
tree will resist burning and should extinguish
- Keep tree trimmings with small, removable,
shape or breakable parts out of the reach of
children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling
small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble
candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
- When buying extra batteries for new toys, don’t
forget about your smoke detectors.
For more information about burn prevention and fire
safety, please call the Saint Barnabas Burn
Outreach and Education office at 973-322-8071.
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