The holidays can be made more enjoyable by taking some basic safety precautions and following some easy tips about outdoor fun, food safety and visiting.
* Make sure children's gloves and shoes stay dry. If either becomes wet, change them right away.
* Prohibit sledding on or into the roadway. Look for shallow slopes that are free of obstacles such as trees and fences.
* Ensure that an adult is in charge of cutting down a live tree for the holiday. Young children can pick out the tree while an adult does the chopping or cutting. Check the tree for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
* Care should be taken to thoroughly wash all raw vegetables and fruits prior to preparing or serving them. These are foods that are typically grown outdoors and possibly exposed to contaminated water or soil.
* Wash hands frequently and thoroughly - food borne illness is easily spread by unclean hands.
* Always keep raw and cooked foods separate to prevent cross contamination. Thoroughly clean cutting boards between uses, use separate utensils when preparing foods and always wash utensils used to taste food before reuse.
* Fully cook all meats and poultry.
* Care should be taken in transporting potluck dishes. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold prior to serving.
Entertaining and visiting with children:
* Clean up immediately after a holiday party. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco.
* Remember that the homes you visit may not be child
proofed. Keep an eye out for danger spots.
* Keep a laminated list with all of the important phone numbers you or a baby-sitter is likely to need in case of an emergency. Include the police and fire department, your pediatrician and the poison control center.
* Ask your neighbor if they have a gun before sending your kids over to play. If the answer is yes, you need to make absolutely sure that all guns are stored unloaded and locked - ideally in a gun safe - with ammunition locked separately. Include the question along with other things you might normally discuss before sending your child to someone's house.
* Plan a safe place for babies to sleep when traveling. Ensure that unfamiliar cribs and playpens meet current design specifications. A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that babies who sleep in adult beds are up to 40 percent more likely to suffocate than those that sleep in an infant crib that meets current specifications. Check cribs and playpens for safety requirements before putting baby down for a nap. It's also a good idea to remove suffocation hazards like pillows, blankets and stuffed animals.
Please keep these safety precautions in mind as you and your loved ones enjoy this special time of year.
Happy holidays and best wishes for a healthy new year from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.