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6 Tips to Keep Kids Safe at Holiday Gatherings

Family at the dinner table for a holiday

Getting together with extended family and friends is a holiday tradition for many people. If you have young children, a few simple safety precautions will help assure these fun celebrations don’t turn tragic.

Keep Germs at Bay

Remember that 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 2 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. 

Be Conscious of Allergies

Know your child’s allergies and have an epi pen or other medications with you at holiday dinners. Remind family members ahead of time if there is a particular food your child must avoid. Also, don’t forget about cross-contamination with items 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.

Beware of 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 at arm’s reach that may cause choking. Nuts and candies are often the biggest culprits for toddler and child choking.

It’s a good idea to become educated about the best maneuvers to dislodge an obstruction in the airway of a choking child (or adult). Here is a helpful website.

Watch the Floor

Gathering family and friends together is what makes the holidays great–and sometimes dangerous. It’s common to keep purses on the floor, where crawling and cruising toddlers can investigate and possibly ingest dangerous things. Pill bottles, smokeless tobacco, perfume, vaping cartridges, and small objects/spare change that can cause poisoning or choking are of particular concern. If toddlers are on the floor, purses need to be hung up and out of reach.

Beware of the Dog

Pets can also be an unexpected source of danger during a large gathering. Animals, especially dogs, can become overwhelmed or territorial when there is a large group of people in their space. When children want to play with the dog’s toys or bed, the territorial reaction may include teeth.

Similarly, it is very important to keep kids away when the dog is eating. Even the most good-natured dog can turn and snap when a child surprises or touches it at meal time. This can result in significant facial and soft tissue injuries.

Be Careful in the Kitchen

If you can smell the aroma of the turkey and pie, then the oven is hot enough to severely burn a child. Every year, children are injured in accidents involving ovens, hot plates, stove tops, and knives.

It’s best to keep young kids out of the kitchen. Also, try to cook only on back burners, keep the oven door closed until it’s clear that no kids are around, and immediately replace knives into a contained, safe location after use.

For more holiday safety tips, read a blog post from Dr. Vito DiCamillo, medical director of Lancaster General Health Urgent Care.




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.

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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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