Many people think poinsettias and Christmas cacti are poisonous. They are not, but mistletoe should be kept where it cannot be reached by young children or pets. Here are some other dangers to watch out for in winter:
- Antifreeze is a poisonous liquid used in cars. It has a sweet taste that children and animals like. If even a little is swallowed, it can be harmful and can cause kidney damage and death.
- Keep antifreeze, household cleaners, and all chemicals in the containers they came in with a tight cap and keep away from children and pets.
- Before throwing away an antifreeze container, rinse it with water, and replace the safety cap.
- Salt used on driveways and sidewalks in winter can harm a pet or child if eaten.
- Store such salt out of reach and in a locked cabinet.
- Avoid using glass mercury thermometers. They can break in a child’s mouth. Instead, use a digital thermometer.
- Stay with children when taking their temperature.
- Spilled mercury should be cleaned up properly as it is a hazardous waste. Call the Poison Help line (1-800-222-1222), which connects you to your local poison center, or your local health department for advice.
Carbon monoxide (CO)
- CO is a poisonous gas and has no color, odor, or taste. All fuel-burning devices make CO, mostly when they are not working properly or are not used in a ventilated space. CO can collect in closed areas.
- Sources of CO include gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas stoves, gas ovens, kerosene space heaters, wood and gas fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, power generators, and car engines.
- People at greatest risk for CO poisoning include pregnant women, infants, young children, older people, people with diseases that affect breathing, and people with heart disease.
- Signs of CO poisoning are similar to signs of the flu and some cold-weather viruses: Headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and confusion.
To prevent CO poisoning in your home: Have at least one CO detector in your home. The best places for a CO detector are near bedrooms and close to furnaces. Have your heating system, vents, and chimney checked every year by experts. Always follow product instructions for installing and repairing appliances that burn fuel. Never burn charcoal inside a house or garage. Never use a gas oven to heat a house or apartment or use unvented fuel-burning devices indoors. Never run a car in a closed garage
Parents should feed children before trick or treating to make it easier for them to not eat Halloween treats until these have inspected. Candy or food treats which are old, discolored, out of the proper wrapper, or tampered with need to be discarded. (If you truly suspect that something your child has received has been deliberately contaminated, contact the police.) Parents should also be aware of food allergies that children might have. Glowsticks, discussed above, are also a concern during the Halloween holiday.
Care should be taken to avoid danger with Halloween costumes and decorations as well. For face paint, be sure to choose something non-toxic and avoid the eye area. Costumes should be nonflammable and warm, and masks should not impair a child’s vision.
The most important safety precaution for Halloween is to make sure that children are accompanied and supervised at all times.
Download the Center’s Halloween Safety Fact Sheet.