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Holiday Safety Tips

The holiday Poinsettia has long been considered poisonous, but in fact, while ingestion of many leaves of this plant may cause a stomachache, this holiday plant is not fatal. The California Poison Control System offers some advice about real holiday dangers to look out for, but in case of any potential poisoning or for more information contact the California Poison Control System at 1 (800) 222-1222.


Eating holly or mistletoe berries can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and drowsiness. If eaten in sufficient amounts, more severe symptoms can occur.

Christmas trees

If eaten, the needles from Christmas trees can cause choking if a needle gets stuck in the throat like a fishbone. Be aware that needles falling from a dry tree can be a problem to small children and pets.

Be mindful of pets

Dogs are especially prone to poisonings because they eat almost anything. Keep chocolate out of the reach of dogs; it can cause vomiting diarrhea, tremors or even a coma.

Gift wrap

Most wrapping paper and ribbons are non-toxic, but foil and colored gift-wrap may contain lead. Do not let babies chew on gift-wrap.

Snow sprays

Many people like the look of snow on their indoor Christmas tree and use snow spray to achieve this look. Many snow sprays contain acetone or methylene chloride and these solvents can be harmful when inhaled. Briefly inhaling the spray in a small, poorly ventilated room may result in nausea, lightheadedness and headache. Longer or more concentrated exposures can be more serious. Once the snow spray is dried, it is not dangerous.

Disc batteries

Many holiday gifts require flat, coin-shaped disc batteries. They may, if swallowed, stick in the esophagus causing obstruction or serious burns. Also, children may insert these small objects into their ears or nose.


When grandma and grandpa come to visit for the holidays, make sure they keep their medicines out of the reach of children. Often visitors leave their medication on the nightstand next to their guest bed, easily accessible to children. Also, purses or bags of visitors may contain medication or other potentially dangerous items and need to be placed out of reach as well.

Food preparation

Washing your hands, counters and cutting boards as well as thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables is the most important thing you can do to prevent food poisoning. Prepare raw meat, fish or poultry on very clean surfaces, cook food thoroughly and refrigerate leftovers immediately. Be careful with food on buffet tables making sure that nothing is left out for more than 2 hours.

Carbon monoxide

Colder weather means possible exposure to carbon monoxide from furnaces and fireplaces as families gather indoors. Always fully open chimney flues, and never use charcoal or kerosene heaters indoors. A clue to carbon monoxide poisoning is the occurrence of headaches in several people simultaneously.

In case of an accidental poisoning

Consumers should immediately call the CPCS at 1-800-222-1222 for advice. Pharmacists, nurses, physician-toxicologists and poison information providers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help. In most cases a poison exposure can be safely managed at home with the help of a poison center expert, avoiding a call to 911 or a visit to a crowded hospital emergency room. Many parents think about contacting the poison control services only in case of an emergency, but experts are available to answer questions anytime.

Free poison safety materials

To help consumers better understand poison control services, the CPCS offers many materials free of charge. Brochures that describe poison control services, and include a removable magnet with the toll-free telephone number are available in English, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese.