Decorate Safely for the Holidays

By: Led by the MCG Children’s Medical Center
By: Led by the MCG Children’s Medical Center

Augusta, Ga. -- Candles, mistletoe and other decorations make our homes festive during the holiday season. But how safe are they?


Holiday decorations, especially candles and electrical lighting, can be dangerous for children. It’s important to take a few precautions when decorating for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwaanza and other winter holidays.


  • In 2002, candles started 18,000 home fires in the United States, and twice as many home fires in December as in any other month, according to the National Fire Protection Association. If you use candles, never, never leave lit candles unattended. Don’t put candles on a tree or a natural wreath, or near curtains or drapes. And make sure you keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.

  • Decorative lighting should be labeled with the UL seal of approval from Underwriters Labs. If it’s not labeled for outdoor use, don’t use it outdoors.

  • Never leave a lit Christmas tree or other decorative lighting display unattended. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets. Do not overload extension cords or outlets, and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.

  • Natural Christmas trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times. Do not put the tree near a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent. LED lights burn cooler than incandescent lights and pose a lower risk of fire.

  • Decorate with children in mind. Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them. Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level, and keep lights out of reach.

  • Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace as there is a danger of flash fire.

  • When cooking and entertaining, keep alcohol (including baking extracts) out of reach of children and do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended. After a party, clean up immediately so young early risers won’t be tempted to “explore” leftover drinks.

  • Color additives used in fireplace fires are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach. Artificial snow sprays are also harmful if inhaled.

  • Holly berries, mistletoe berries, poinsettias, amaryllis, boxwood, Christmas rose, Crown of Thorns, English ivy and Jerusalem cherry are all potentially harmful to humans and animals if eaten. Use artificial varieties, or keep these items high and out of reach. If using live varieties, be watchful of fallen leaves or berries that may be picked up and ingested.

To find out whether other decorative plants and products are hazardous, call the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222. For more information about general home safety, call Safe Kids East Central at 706-721-7606.


MCG Health System is composed of three separate organizations -- MCG Health, Inc. and the clinical services offered by the faculty employees of the Medical College of Georgia and the members of the MCG Physicians Practice Group Foundation. The physicians of MCG Health System are community physicians, faculty employees of the Medical College of Georgia, or employees of the MCG Physicians Practice Group Foundation, not employees of MCG Health, Inc. MCG Health, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation operating the MCG Medical Center, MCG Children’s Medical Center, the MCG Sports Medicine Center, MCG Ambulatory Care Center, the Georgia Radiation Therapy Center and related clinical facilities and services. MCG Health, Inc. was formed to support the research and education mission of the Medical College of Georgia and to build the economic growth of the CSRA, the state of Georgia and the Southeast by providing an environment for faculty employees of the Medical College of Georgia and the MCG Physicians Practice Group Foundation and community physicians to deliver the highest level of primary and specialty health care. For more information, please visit www.MCGHealth.org.


Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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