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Tips for a Happy, Hazard-free Holiday

Tips for a Happy, Hazard-free Holiday

With SMH Emergency Care & Injury Prevention Specialists

The holidays are in full swing — time for gathering with loved ones, for decking the halls and for cooking up sweet treats to share. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when emergency rooms and trauma centers see a seasonal uptick in visits due to accidental injuries.

Keep your holiday merry and bright with these safety tips from Sarasota Memorial emergency care and injury prevention specialists, including Clinical Toxicologist Jeremy Lund, PharmD, MS, DABAT, BCCCP, BCPS; and nurse Susan Williams, RN, BSN.

A Recipe for Danger?

Did you know that vanilla extract, a common baking ingredient, could be toxic to a child? And too much nutmeg can lead to hallucinations? 

While both are safe in the amounts typically used for baking, consuming large amounts can be hazardous.

Vanilla extract has a very high alcohol content that makes it poisonous for small children, if they consume a lot of it — a likely scenario among young children given vanilla extract’s flavorful taste and the fact it’s an easily ingested liquid.

Be Prepared for Poisonings

Save the poison control center's contact number into your phone, or post it on the fridge for easy, fast access in an emergency.

Poison Control Center: 800-222-1222.

Tip: Text “poison” to 484848 to easily save Poison Control’s contact info to your phone.

Similarly, nutmeg can be dangerous if eaten in large amounts. Nutmeg can cause hallucinations and other serious side effects if several grams are consumed all at once. 

Keep these ingredients out of the reach of children who might be tempted to ingest them. 

Beware Button Batteries!

Treat button batteries with the same caution you do poisons. Not only do they pose a choking hazard, but they can cause a potentially fatal chemical reaction if swallowed. And they are commonly used

Shiny and coin-sized, button batteries can be especially enticing for curious toddlers, and they are surprisingly common in toys and holiday decorations. If you gift toys that use button batteries or have decorations powered by them, make sure young children cannot access the battery compartment, and always store extra button batteries far out of their reach. 

Button batteriesClick here to find out why you should keep honey on hand and to learn what to do if you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery. We also recommend keeping the Battery Ingestion Hotline phone number handy, just in case: 800-498-8666

Are Poinsettias Poisonous?

Mistletoe and poinsettia plants can add a festive touch to holiday décor, but are they safe to have in homes with children or pets?

You’ve likely heard that these plants are toxic, but the truth is that while they can be poisonous, the danger they pose has been highly exaggerated. When ingested, mistletoe and poinsettia may cause mild stomach upset, but to cause any real medical danger, they would have to be eaten in very large amounts. 

Don't be afraid to have these colorful additions around your home for the holidays. Just be sure to keep them out of reach of young kids or pets who may be tempted to feast on them. And, warn children not to break apart the leaves or get any of the pollen in their eyes or on their skin. It can cause a rash or eye irritation, both of which can pretty painful.

Keep It COVID-19 Safe

With COVID-19 cases, unfortunately, trending upward across the country and the Omicron variant now circulating in Florida, we need to do all we can to stay healthy and prevent another surge, especially as seasonal travel and holiday gatherings pick up. 

It’s important to continue taking precautions to protect yourself, your family and your community, and to reduce the virus’ spread. 

  • First and foremost: If you’re eligible, get a COVID-19 vaccine

  • Already vaccinated? Get a booster, as soon as you’re eligible. COVID-19 booster shots are important to protect your health and others as the Omicron variant spreads in the U.S. With an Omicron spike anticipated in early 2022, health experts recommend that those who are eligible get their booster shot as soon as possible.

  • If you’re sick or have symptoms, get tested and stay home

  • Stay informed.

  • Traveling on a plane, bus or train in the U.S.? Wear a mask. It’s required on public transportation and while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Travelers should also visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Travel Page for important information.

COVID in Sarasota FLSarasota County is currently designated as a community with “substantial” transmission (as of publishing date, Dec. 16, 2021). That means that everyone in Sarasota County — vaccinated or not — should follow these guidelines from federal health officials:

  • Wear a mask in public indoor settings.

  • Stay 6 feet apart from others who don’t live with you.

  • Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces. Outdoor activities are safer than indoors.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer when soap isn’t available.

  • Consider getting a COVID test before attending an indoor gathering with people not in your household.

Get more tips on safely celebrating the holidays at


** NOTE: This content was published Dec. 16, 2021. Information related to the COVID-19 virus and vaccines is continually evolving. For the most up to date info, we recommend visiting the CDC’s website and the FDA website.

Posted: Dec 15, 2021,
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