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Essential health information from local experts

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 eat them.

Beware Button Batteries!A variety of button batteries on a grey backdrop

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.

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.

Click here to learn what to do if you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery, and find out why you should keep honey on hand, just in case. 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?

A red and green potted poinsettia brings much-needed color to the holiday décor.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 be pretty painful.

Where To Go For Medical Attention

If an accident or injury is life-threatening, call 911 immediately.

If it is not life-threatening but needs attention, you can find rapid medical assistance at one of seven Sarasota Memorial Urgent Care Centers, open from 8am to 8pm daily.

Use an online check-in to Save Your Spot at one near you.SMH Copywriter, Phil Lederer

Written by Sarasota Memorial copywriter Philip Lederer, MA, who crafts a variety of external communications for the healthcare system. SMH’s in-house wordsmith, Lederer earned his Master’s degree in Public Administration and Political Philosophy from Morehead State University, KY, and decks the halls with poison ivy.