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News Releases

For Immediate Release

Experts at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Offer Advice for Ensuring a Safe and Enjoyable Holiday Season

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is advising families to enjoy this holiday season safe from the hazards presented by seasonal decorations and even some common misconceptions.

Results of recent tests have shown several popular brands of holiday lights contain unsafe levels of lead in the PVC insulation that covers the wiring, but lights are only one of the dangers to be attentive to, according to Barbara A. Gaines, MD, director of the Benedum Pediatric Trauma Program at Children’s.

“Family and social activities naturally increase this time of year, but we ask adults to still be aware of hazards that could lead to an otherwise preventable injury,” Dr. Gaines said. “Whether handling trees, decorations, lights or special holiday foods, adult supervision is always rule number one. Never allow a child to arrange lighting or ornaments, light candles or handle foods that could potentially pose an allergy risk.”

In addition to the known hazards, adults should know the difference between facts and popular holiday myths. “Despite urban legends, poinsettia plants are not deadly poisonous as many people believe” said Edward Krenzelok, PharmD, director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center at Children’s Hospital and UPMC. “On the other hand, mistletoe and holly berries can be toxic to people, if enough is ingested.”

The Pittsburgh Poison Center responds to more than 123,000 requests for poison information each year and is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Its toll-free number is 1-800-222-1222.

Other winter holiday tips available at the Injury Prevention  section of Children’s Web site include:

  • Make sure lights are marked with the UL Seal. (Underwriters Laboratories Inc., an independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization).
  • Do not overload electric outlets or extension cords.
  • Never use indoor lights outside.
  • Never put nails through wires when hanging lights.
  • When shopping for a live tree, select a fresh tree and check the branches every day to make sure it isn’t drying out. Trees usually dry out in 10–15 days, so keep the tree stand filled with water.
  • When using artificial trees, make sure the label says that it’s “fire-resistant.” Keep the tree away from all household heat sources.
  • Keep all alcohol out of the reach of children; and if you host a holiday party, clean up immediately to avoid kids’ exposure to leftover alcoholic drinks around the house.
  • Never put potentially hazardous gifts (such as perfume or cologne) under the tree, where children can open or even ingest them.

Learn more about holiday safety at the Injury Prevention section of Children’s Web site.


Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919 or 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5502 or 412-692-5016,

Last Update
March 26, 2015
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Last Update
March 26, 2015