AAP Offers Holiday Decorating Safety Tips

If your holiday decorations aren’t up already, odds are you’re planning a day to start putting up trees and lights, but the American Academy of Pediatrics is sending out a few reminders as you do so.

Holiday Safety Tips:


  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.”
  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches, and needles do not break when bent between your fingers. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • 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 do not block doorways.
  • Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will help keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
  • Be sure to keep the stand filled with water, because heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly.


  • Check all tree lights–even if you have just purchased them–before hanging them on your tree. Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Some 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.
  • Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
  • Lights and candles are fire hazards. If you use electric lights, look for frayed or exposed wires, and make sure no wires are pinched by furniture and no cords run under rugs.
  • Don’t use the same extension cord for more than three strands of lights and turn off all lights before going to bed.
  • When lighting candles, remove flammable materials from the area and never leave a burning candle unattended.
  • Space heaters are involved in 79% of fatal home heating fires. If space heaters are in use, there should be a 3-foot open zone – make sure they are not close to curtains, blankets or other potentially flammable materials.  Always turn off and unplug when unattended.


  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals.
  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked over.
  • 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

Fire Places

  • Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations from fireplace area. Check to see that the flue is open.
  • Use care with “fire salts,” which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
  • Do not burn gift wrap paper in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
  • If a glass-fronted gas fireplace is used, keep children and others well away from it with a screen or gate. The glass doors can get hot enough to cause serious burns and stay hot long after the fire is out.


(Photo-Shellyn Leeper Photograph)

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