Keeping safe while decorating for the holidays


November 22, 2017

Decking the halls can bring a time of increased risk for injury. While decorating for the holidays, follow this advice to make sure the family stays safe.


Lights and decorations are a special part of the holidays, but also bring an increased potential for injury, especially to young children, according to safety experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

As reported by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, emergency departments nationwide have seen an estimated 12,000 injuries involving holiday decorating each year since 2009. Most common injuries include falls from ladders, lacerations from ornaments and ingestion of small objects.

“The holiday season brings an increased risk for fire and burn injuries, as well as lacerations from breakable decorations and choking or poisoning when children attempt to ingest small or poisonous objects,” said Purnima Unni, MPH, CHES, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program manager at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. “It is important to follow the safety tips provided when decorating, and make sure all young children are under active adult supervision.”

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt offers these tips to keep homes safe and prevent holiday-related injuries:

Safe decorating

  • Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety. Identify these by the label from an independent testing laboratory.
  • Look for the “ETL” or “UL” label on lights to make sure they have been tested for safety.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets or repair them before using.
  • Don’t overload extension cords or outlets with too many plugs.
  • Turn off and unplug all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Make sure an adult is present when candles are lit, and blow out the candles before leaving a room.
  • Keep candles at least three feet away from anything that might burn.
  • Store candles, matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children.
  • Many artificial trees are fire resistant. If you buy one, look for a statement specifying this protection.
  • Live trees should be watered frequently, keeping the stand filled with water at all times.
  • Place tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Heated rooms dry trees out rapidly, creating fire hazards.
  • Avoid putting ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on lower branches easily accessible to young children.

Poison prevention

In a poison emergency, call the Tennessee Poison Center at 800-222-1222.
This post was written by Jennifer Wetzel, Senior Information Officer and Local News Director for Vanderbilt University Medical Center.