Keeping Kids Safe at Holiday Gatherings

Family Celebrating The Holidays

Holiday gatherings can be fun and relaxing times for families. You get a break from your usual routine and visit people and places you don’t normally experience. These same good things can also be a source of accidents and injuries for families with small children. By following some important safety tips you can help keep kids safe.

Food Allergy Awareness

Know your child’s allergies and have an epi pen or other medications with you at the holiday dinner. Remind family members ahead of time if there is a particular food your child must avoid. Also, don’t forget about cross-contamination that can happen with things like double-dipped spoons. If your child has a severe allergy, consider preparing their dinner at home and bringing it for them to eat at the table.

Spread Joy Not Illness

Hand washing and using sanitizer are the best protection against bacteria and viruses. Teach kids to cover coughs and sneezes in their elbow (not their hand). If a kiss from a family member is welcomed by your child, avoid kissing on the lips and instead kiss on cheeks or the top of the child’s head to avoid the spread of germs.

Finally, keep in mind that babies younger than two months have an immature immune system that can’t adequately fight bacterial or viral infections, and should be kept away from sick or unvaccinated family members.

Choking Hazards

Know who is feeding your child and beware of choking hazards. Even though family members are well-meaning, some will not recognize foods as choking hazards. Also, be watchful of toddlers who have access to food within arms-reach that may cause choking. Nuts and candies are some of the biggest culprits for toddler and child choking.

It’s always a good idea to educate yourself about the best maneuvers to dislodge an obstruction to the airway of a choking child…or adult.

Watch the Purses

The gathering of family members is what makes holidays great—and sometimes dangerous. It’s common to keep purses on the floor or a chair, which allows crawling and cruising toddlers to investigate and possibly ingest dangerous things. Of special concern are pill bottles, smokeless tobacco, perfume, vaping cartridges, and small objects/spare change that can cause poisoning or choking. If toddlers are on the floor, then purses need to be hung up and out of reach.

Pets: An Unexpected Source of Danger

Pets can also be an unexpected source of danger during a large gathering. Animals, especially dogs, can become overwhelmed or territorial when a large group of people is in their space. And when children want to play with the dog’s toys or bed, the territorial reaction may include teeth…and significant facial and soft tissue injuries. It is especially important to keep kids away from a dog when the dog is eating. Dogs often respond instinctually, turning and snapping when surprised or touched when in a vulnerable position of eating.

Kitchen Hazards

If you can smell the aroma of a holiday dinner, the oven is hot enough to severely burn a child. A crowded kitchen is the perfect place for kids to go unnoticed. Ovens, hot plates, stove tops, and knives are sources of annual pediatric injuries. If young kids are present, try to cook only on back burners, keep the oven door closed until no kids are around, and immediately replace knives into a contained safe location after use. Better yet, keep little ones out of the kitchen altogether.

By being aware of new surroundings and taking some simple precautions, you can enjoy a safe and relaxing time wherever and whenever you gather with family and friends.

author name

Joan B. Thode, MD

Joan B. Thode, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician with LG Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics.

Education: Undergraduate–Franklin & Marshall College; Medical School–George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Residency–NYU Langone Medical Center.

Schedule an Appointment Call: 717-569-6481

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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