Beginning in November and continuing through December every hour 10 people are injured from holiday decorating activities. The good news is that these injuries are 100% preventable. Pro Consumer Safety briefly explains why and provides safety tips to keep you and your family safe while decorating for the holidays.
"Holiday Decorating" is part one of an eight part series on holiday safety (Cooking, Stress-Free Holidays, Holidays After Loss of A Loved One, Shopping Safety, Child-Safe Gift Guide, Gifts and Children's Boundaries, and Family Holiday Activities). In addition will also include a brief on Hanukkah Safety.) 

Common Holiday-Related Injuries

  • Adult falls : Most adult falls are from ladders followed by cuts, burns, and back strains all from decorating.
  • Fires: Most tree fires happen between Christmas and New Year's when trees become more dried out. Tree fires happen because of three common reasons: 1) The tree not being watered-Live trees dry quickly in a warm home, especially when not watered regularly causing a high fire risk. 2) the tree being placed too close to a heat source (fireplace or heater), and 3) Too many strands of lights plugged into together.
  • Falls and poisonings among toddler-aged children: Children under the age of 5 are also treated in emergency departments during this time of year for injuries associated with 1) shopping cart and escalator related-falls while parents are shopping; and 2) in the home from being exposed to poisonous holiday plants and decorations that look like candy.

Decorating Safety Tips

Keeping decorating safety tips as part of your decorating checklist will help to keep you and your family away from the emergency room and safe this holiday. 

Tree Decorating

Live Tree Warning!
Most tree fires happen between Christmas Day and New Years. For those who celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah with a tree or bush that is decorated, remember if you have a live tree or bush, they can dry out quickly in a warm home, from not being watered properly, being too close to room heating and too many strands of lights plugged together.

Tree or Bush Decorating Tips:

  1. Water tree or bush regularly by checking and adding water each morning
  2. Keep tree of bush as far away as possible from any heat source such as a fireplace or heater (no closer than three feet away, but further is always best)
  3. Use no more than 3-strands of lights plugged together. Always follow warnings and recommendations on the specific lighting.

Holiday Lighting Tips:

  1. Indoor lights are for “indoor-use” only
  2. Outside lights are for “outdoor-use” only and those with a label that reads “certified for outdoor use”
  3. For lighting sets with broken sockets, frayed or bare wires do not use and throw away
  4. Outdoor lights and decorations must be plugged into aground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). These can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold
  5. Use no more than three strings of lights for each extension cord
  6. Never use electric lights on a metallic tree
  7. Stay away from power lines leading from the home to utility poles
  8. Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect from wind damage
  9. Use insulated staples to hold strings in place-not nails or tacks. or hook strings of lights on hooks
  10. When it is time to remove outdoor lights, never pull lights down because it can damage the electrical wire
  11. When using a ladder to hang lights, make sure it is stable. Have someone assist you if necessary.
  12. Remember to turn off lights when you leave home and when you go to bed! See Holiday Before Bedtime Nightly Routine!

Holiday Plant Safety Tips

Three common holiday plants include mistletoe, holly berries and Christmas cactus. When decorating for the holidays, if you have small children (infants or toddlers) living in your home or if you will have small children visiting your home, be aware of these holiday plants that are known to be poisonous.

Mistletoe, holly berries, and Christmas cactus are poisonous if swallowed. Eating one or two berries from these plants can cause stomach aches, vomiting and/or diarrhea. However a higher amount of 15-20 can be deadly. Keep these plants up high, away from small children and even animals. Also keep in mind that if these are hung on a door, such as in a wreath, or placed overhanging from a bookcase, that leaves might drop becoming a risk to infants and toddlers, and pets.
Mistletoe - Poisonous
Natural Mistletoe
Holly Berries - Poisonous
Holly Berries (close up)
Natural Holly Berries
Christmas Cactus - Poisonous
Christmas Cactus (close up)
Christmas Cactus Plant
Never assume and always call Poison Control (1-800-222-1222). Remember Poison Control is also available for non-emergency questions about any type of concerns about poisoning. Many people confuse Poinsettias, but these are not poisonous, but if swallowed may cause stomach aches. Again, never guess what a child or even adult might have swallowed, always call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. Keep this number stored in your mobile phone.

Fireplace Safety Tips

A fireplace in your home is warm and festive for the holidays. However keep in mind fire and burn safety when decorating and when in use. Follow these decorating and use recommendations to prevent the risk of a fire in your home and a burn to visitors such as infants or toddlers who might visit your home.

Decorating your fireplace:
  1. Do not hang Christmas stockings in front of a burning fire
  2. When decorating a mantle, keep is clear of flammable decorations such as greenery branches, ribbons and paper
  3. Other decorations like baskets of pine cones or other greenery on the hearth can become a fire risk, so keep further away from the fire
  4. Keep Christmas tree and anything that is flammable more than three feet away from a fireplace
When fireplace is in use:
  1. Keep "fire salts," (that make colored flames when put on wood fires), stored high away from children. These salts contain heavy metals that can cause severe stomach irritation and vomiting if eaten
  2. Use glass fireplace doors or a metal screen in front of your fireplace 
  3. Barrier gates can be used when infants and toddlers are visiting 
  4. Do not burn wrapping paper or tree branches in the fireplace because these ignite rapidly!
  5. Always put fireplace flames out before going to bed. See "Holiday Nightly Before Bedtime Routine"

Remember don't let the unknown become a risk and the result a visit to the emergency room this holiday. Keep you and your family and guests safe by practicing these tips. Remember Holiday Decorating is part one of an eight part series (Watch out for Cooking, Stress-Free Holidays, The Holidays After Loss of A Loved One, Shopping, Child Safe Gift Guide, Gift's and Child Boundaries, and Family Holiday Activities).

You can also visit Winter Holidays and Winter Sport Safety or read or print Holiday Times for all your holiday safety needs.

For questions, contact