The holidays are a time for family and fun — and are often when many new toys and decorations come into the home. Some of these could contain hidden health and safety hazards if not used correctly.
Toys and gifts
- Choose only those items that are suitable for your child’s age group.
- Read and follow all instructions for any new toy.
- Remember that toys with small parts are a choking hazard for children under three years.
- Make sure batteries not accessible to children and are properly installed by an adult.
- Dispose of packing materials (such as Styrofoam pellets and plastic bags) immediately — children could choke or suffocate on these items.
- If you have a Christmas tree, keep it secured in a sturdy stand so that it can’t be knocked over easily.
- When buying a real tree, make sure it’s fresh (you can tell if the needles are hard to pull off). Water the tree daily and store it in a cool, sheltered area until you bring it indoors for decorating.
- Place the tree away from high-traffic areas, doorways, heating vents, radiators, stoves, fireplaces and burning candles.
- Dispose of the tree as soon as the holidays are over, or as soon as the needles start to fall. Dispose of it according to local regulations—most municipalities have tree recycling programs.
- When putting lights on a tree, make sure there are no exposed wires and that no bulbs are broken or cracked.
- Keep ‘bubble lights’ away from children — they contain a hazardous chemical that may cause irritation or burns if the bulb breaks.
- Choose tinsel, artificial icicles and other trimmings made of plastic or non-leaded metals. Don’t let children put decorations in their mouths, as some may be harmful to their health.
- Avoid decorations that are sharp, breakable or have small removable parts.
- Keep trimmings and candles that look or smell like food away from children — they might try to eat them.
- Never leave burning candles unattended. Keep them out of the reach of children and away from pets, tree decorations and wrapping paper.
- Cut candle wicks short to prevent high flames.
- If candles are used in a centrepiece, make sure they don’t burn low enough to ignite the decorations.
- Use sturdy candle holders that won’t easily tip over.
- Only use lights that are CSA, ULC or cUL certified.
- Use indoor lights inside and outdoor lights outside.
- Check all light bulbs before you put them up.
- Replace broken or burned-out bulbs with those recommended by the manufacturer.
- Check the light strings and extension cords you use, discarding any that are frayed or have exposed wires, loose connections or broken light sockets.
- Never run electrical cords through doorways or under carpets.
- Don’t overload electrical outlets. Use more than one outlet if the wattage of your lights is more than the outlet can handle.
- Turn off all holiday lights before you go to bed or leave your home.
Fireplaces and wood stoves
- Always use a secure and suitable screen in front of your fireplace, see the manufacturer’s recommendation.
- Have the chimney cleaned and inspected annually. This is to help prevent chimney fires. Some stacks may need more frequent cleaning depending on use.
- Burn seasoned hardwood: it leaves less creosote in the chimney than other woods or artificial logs.
- If using fire-logs, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Use only one log at a time.
- Never burn wood that has been painted or chemically treated
- Put any fire out before going to bed or leaving your home.
- Make sure the chimney is drawing well so that wood smoke does not come into the room.
- Keep children away from gas fireplaces. When in use, the glass doors can become hot and stay hot even after use, enough to cause severe burns.
- Alarms save lives: make sure to have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms in your home & check the batteries every time the clocks go forward or backwards.
Don’t let bad food spoil your holidays
One of the best parts about the holidays is having friends and family over to visit. By following these basic food safety tips, you can help make sure they return home happy and healthy.
- Cook food thoroughly to a safe internal temperature and serve it promptly.
- Use warming trays or crock pots to keep hot foods hot (at least 60°C/140°F).
- Put serving trays on crushed ice to keep cold foods cold (4°C/40°F or below).
- Throw away any food left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Use a clean platter or serving dish each time you restock the buffet.
- Provide serving spoons and tongs for every dish served — especially finger foods like vegetables, candies, chips and nuts.
- Refrigerate all leftovers within two hours in open, shallow containers so they cool quickly. Leave the lid off or wrap loosely until the food is cooled to refrigerator temperature. Very hot items can first be cooled to room temperature, then refrigerated once they stop steaming.
- Store all leftovers separately, especially turkey meat, stuffing and gravy.
- Use refrigerated leftovers within two to three days or freeze right away for later use.
- Reheat solid leftovers, such as turkey and potatoes, to at least 74°C (165°F). Bring gravy to a rolling boil.
- If travelling with leftovers, wrap hot food in foil and large towels, or carry it in insulated containers to maintain a temperature of at least 60°C (140°F). Store cold foods in a cooler with ice or freezer packs to keep a temperature of 4°C (40°F) or below.
Special holiday foods
Some of the most popular foods can be potential food safety risks. To reduce your risk, follow these tips:
- Use a digital food thermometer to ensure the turkey has reached a safe internal temperature of at least 85ºC (185ºF). Take the temperature in the thickest part of the breast or thigh meat, making sure the thermometer doesn’t touch any bones.
- Cook stuffing separately from the turkey in the oven or on the stovetop to a minimum internal temperature of 74ºC (165ºF).
- If you choose to stuff your turkey, stuff it loosely just before roasting and remove all stuffing right after cooking.
- If making eggnog at home, substitute raw eggs with pasteurised egg products.
- If raw eggs are used, heat the egg-milk mixture to at least 74°C (160°F), then refrigerate it right away in small, shallow containers so that it cools quickly.
Unpasteurized fruit juice and cider
- Check the product label to make sure the juice or cider has been pasteurised.
- If the juice or cider has not been pasteurised, bring it to a rolling boil and then cool before serving. Unpasteurized juice may contain bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli that can cause serious illness, especially in children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.