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A Holiday Survival Guide for a Safe Season


December 08, 2009  |  

Experts from UC San Diego Medical Center’s Regional Trauma Center and the California Poison Control System offer these seasonal tips to help keep the season safe.

Seasonal Plants

“Plants and products usually not seen or available during the first ten months of the year account for many problems during the holiday season,” said Lee Cantrell, PharmD, Director of the California Poison Control System, San Diego Division, at UC San Diego Medical Center.  “This can be especially dangerous for curious pets and young children.”

Seasonal Toxic Plants include:

  • All parts of mistletoe
  • Leaves and berries of English holly
  • Christmas trees such as pines, spruces and junipers may cause stomach upset if large amounts are ingested

Non-toxic Seasonal Plants include:

  • Pyracantha
  • Eugenia
  • California Holly 
  • Christmas cactus
  • Pine cones
  • Poinsettias - nontoxic but can cause stomach upset if ingested and the milky sap can cause skin irritation

Seasonal Decorations

Angel hair, or spun glass, is very irritating to the skin and eyes.  Ornaments imported from other countries may be painted with a lead paint and could be toxic if ingested.  Tinsel manufactured prior to 1972 also contains lead.

“The major problem with ingestion of large amounts of tinsel is obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract,” said Cantrell.  “If you visit friends and relatives, especially those without small children, make sure their home is poison-safe.”

UC San Diego Medical Center’s Regional Trauma Center reports that 5,800 people, most 20 to 49 yrs of age, are injured every year from falls while decorating for the holidays.

When using a ladder to decorate your home this holiday season:

  • Make sure your ladder is on a stable surface
  • Wear rubber soled shoes, and
  • Don’t stand on the top two steps or reach to the sides
  • Never stand on furniture

Seatbelts can reduce your chance of dying in a crash by half and infant safety seats reduce the risk of death by 71 percent.

When driving during the holiday season- visiting friends or shopping:

  • Remind all passengers to buckle up
  • Make sure young ones are buckled into appropriate safety seats
  • Always set a good example and buckle up yourself

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is common in children throughout the year, but increases during the holidays.  This often occurs when children drink the leftover cocktails after parties or when adults allow kids to drink from their glasses.  Adults should make sure alcoholic drinks are out of reach during and after a party.

If you’re hosting a party this holiday season, trauma experts recommend that you:

  • Remind your guests to plan ahead and designate a sober driver
  • Serve food if serving alcohol
  • Stop serving alcoholic beverages before the party ends
  • Offer festive, alcohol-free beverages
  • Make sure your guests leave with a sober driver

If you have questions about an incident or the potential toxicity of anything in your home, call the California Poison Control System, San Diego Division, at UC San Diego Medical Center, toll free at 1-800-222-1222. 

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Media Contact: Kim Edwards, 619-543-6163,


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