Perhaps safety is the last thing on your mind as the holiday season approaches; but spare a few moments to consider these top 12 safety tips to ensure that your festive period, family home time, journeys and activities proceed without mishap, and ensure you, your family and your guests have a merry and cheerful holiday.

  1. Make An Emergency Car Kit and Plan for Safe Driving

    Preparing to visit relatives or friends over the holiday season? The American Red Cross suggest you make an emergency car kit and include items such as blankets or sleeping bags, jump leads, a fire extinguisher (A-B-C type, 5 lb), compass, road maps, shovel, tyre repair kit, tyre pump, extra clothing, flares, and a tow rope.

    And of course, don’t drive off until you and your passengers have buckled their seat belts and children 12 and under are in the back seat. Avoid travelling with sharp or heavy objects in the passenger area of the car; in the event of a sudden stop or crash they turn into dangerous flying missiles. Also, make sure any child seats meet recognized federal or national standards for crash protection.

    You should avoid driving in a storm, but if you feel you must, keep your gas tank full and don’t let the fuel line freeze. Let someone know where you are going, which route you are planning to take and when you expect to arrive.

  2. Make Delicious Non-Alcoholic Drinks for the Driver

    Don’t drink and drive: this doesn’t have to be boring for the driver if you make sure he or she has plenty of delicious non-alcoholic drinks to choose from. Be a thoughtful host and make sure drivers coming to your party have a good choice of non-alcoholic drinks. These are available in good supermarkets, or you can make your own.

    Try this non-alcoholic Christmas punch: take 2 cups (half a litre) white grape juice, 2 really ripe mashed bananas, 1 cup each of pineapple and mango juice, 2 cups ginger ale, a litre (a quart) of sparkling water or plain soda, half a cup blueberries, 1 cup raspberries, 1 tin mandarin segments. Mix all together, sweeten to taste (eg with agave syrup or sugar syrup), decorate with chopped mint leaves and cinnamon sticks.

  3. Use Layers for Warmth

    When it is very cold outside, if you dress in several thin layers rather than rely on one single heavy coat you will stay warmer and avoid hypothermia; plus wear a hat, especially one that covers your ears.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that you dress an older baby or young child in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions. For outdoor activities they suggest children wear thermal long johns, turtlenecks, one or two shirts, pants, sweater, coat, warm socks, boots, gloves or mittens, and a hat.

    Hypothermia symptoms include: confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering: seek medical attention immediately if you get cold and have these symptoms.

  4. Use a Baby Sitter Trained in First Aid

    For peace of mind while you enjoy your Christmas party, engage a baby sitter who is trained in first aid. If you have a regular and reliable baby sitter who is not first aid trained encourage them to get training.

    Red-Cross certified babysitters learn how to give basic first aid, hold and feed a child properly, monitor safe play, actively engage with the child, take emergency action when needed, and they can also become certified in infant and child CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

  5. Stay Safe in the Kitchen

    Keep flammable items such as towels, curtains, cloth potholders away from the stove top. Keep children out of the area where hot food or drinks are being prepared, and use back burners and turn pot handles toward the back of your stove so they are out of reach of little hands.

  6. Ensure Your Home is Fire Safe

    Winter is a time when household fires occur, so remember to install smoke alarms on every floor of your home, test them every month, and make sure family members know what to do in the event of a fire. Don’t leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended.

    If you are planning to build a new home, consider installing fire sprinklers.

  7. Prevent Falls at Home

    According to a 2004 report from the Home Safety Council, falls are by far the leading cause of cause of unintentional home injury death and account for over 5 million injuries and nearly 6,000 deaths a year in the US.

    Walk through your home and look for potential fall hazards and put them right. For example, have handrails on both sides of stairs and steps, have lots of light at the top and bottom of stairs, tape rugs to the floor or don’t use them, keep the stairs clear of toys and obstacles, use non skid bathroom mats, install grab bars in the tub and shower, and have a non slip mat or non slip strips in your tub and shower.

  8. Prevent Poisoning

    Poisons are things you breathe, touch, eat or get in your eyes. Know where they are in and outside your home. Keep all poisonous items locked away from children, read the instructions and make sure containers have child proof locks on them. Don’t leave tablets and medication lying around where children can get them, eg open handbags, low lying drawers or bedside tables.

    If you burn fuel for cooking or heating, install a carbon monoxide (CO) detector near bedrooms and arrange for a service engineer to check heaters, stoves and fireplaces every year.

    Call the emergency services if someone won’t wake up, is having trouble breathing or is having a seizure: call them even if the person seems OK but you think they may have taken poison.

  9. Prevent Choking and Suffocation

    If an object can pass through a toilet paper tube it can cause a young child to choke. So keep coins, peanuts, grapes, other small round or hard foods, small objects, hard sweets and candy, buttons, pins and jewellery out of the sight and reach of children. Don’t let young children play with balloons unsupervised and make sure no pieces of latex are left lying around from burst balloons: these can be dangerous if swallowed.

    Don’t put loose blankets, pillows, comforters or toys in a baby’s crib or cot: they can sometimes cause a baby to stop breathing. Don’t be tempted to hang pictures, quilts, or ribbons on or over the cot or crib, even if they were well intended Christmas gifts.

    Don’t leave young children unattended in baths, tubs, near toilets, pools and spas: stay close enough to reach out and touch them.

  10. Enjoy Winter Sports Safely

    Observe sensible guidelines about safe winter sports. For example don’t let children skate on unapproved surfaces and don’t let them skate alone. Check sleds are free of sharp edges and splinters, make sure slopes are free of obstructions and end with a flat run off away from traffic. Keep young children separated from older children.

    Don’t ski or snowboard on your own, and always make sure young children are supervised and wear the appropriate equipment that is safe and of the right size for them. Avoid crowded slopes and skiing in areas with trees and other obstacles. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should be taught to ski or snowboard by a qualified instructor in a program designed for children and that children under the age 7 should not snowboard at all.

  11. Wear Sun Block

    It may be hard to believe, but the sun’s rays can burn in winter, especially when they reflect off snow. So make sure you cover exposed skin, particularly on children, with sun block if spending time outside, for instance going for walks or doing winter sports.

  12. Help Prevent Spread of Flu

    Help prevent spread of flu this winter by practising simple and sensible hygiene. Wash hands with soap and water as often as possible, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 per cent alcohol. If travelling by plane or other means where there are lots of people, take sanitizing wipes with you and disinfect hard surfaces like the food tray table on the plane, luggage handles, door handles, seat armrests and even your cellphone.

  13. Get Trained in First Aid

    Learn to save lives, not just during the holidays, but all year round. The Red Cross suggests every household should have at least one member trained in life saving skills and first aid. If you don’t have time to attend a course before the holidays, schedule one for the New Year: it only takes a few hours to become certified in first aid and CPR/AED (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Automated External Defibrillation).

    The Red Cross provide accessible first aid and life saving courses in many countries, as do other organizations like St John Ambulance in the UK.

Sources: Red Cross, Home Safety Council, American Academy of Pediatrics.

Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD