Burn Center Offers Winter Holiday Safety Tips

LIVINGSTON — Holidays are often spent enjoying time with family and friends. People frequently decorate their homes and places of work with trees, lights and candles to enhance the holiday feeling. Unfortunately, this time of year is also a period for a higher incidence of accidents and injuries. Changes in routine can sometimes result in problems.

“Holidays are a deviation from the normal routine,” says Lisa Jones, BS, JFIS, Community Burn Educator for The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, New Jersey’s first and only certified burn treatment facility. “We may visit with friends and relatives who have homes that are unfamiliar to us or are not used to having children. Many of us tend to cook and bake more and often try new recipes. All of these unfamiliar situations place us at risk for injury.”

Households not used to having young children around should give some thought to their safety when receiving small visitors during the holiday season. Ms. Jones states that it is particularly important to pay attention to the placement of hot food and beverages. Children can sustain burn injuries from spills and cooking. Children should be kept out of the kitchen as much as possible, as proximity to the stove and oven can place them in harm’s way.

In addition, extra precaution should be taken to prevent children from touching the glass door of a gas fireplace. “These doors can heat up to more than 200º F. It would take just six minutes to cause a serious burn to a little ones’ curious hands,” Ms. Jones explains. Proper adult supervision and the use of a screen or gate can help keep children safe.

The following are additional safety tips from The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center to help keep your family safe during the holiday season:


  • Candles should be positioned in a glass or nonflammable container.
  • Candles should be kept away from curtains or any object that can be blown in the direction of the flame.
  • Lighted candles should never be left unattended.
  • Keep lighters and matches away from young children.

Electrical Lightening

  • Only UL-approved electric lighting should be used and there should never be more than three strands of lights connected into one extension cord.
  • Sockets should be kept dry and outdoor lighting should only be used outside.
  • Check electrical lighting for any fraying, as well as broken bulbs and replace before using.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples, not nails or tacks, to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
  • Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.

Trees and Wreaths

  • Trees and wreaths should be placed far from hot, dry places, such as the fireplace.
  • The freshest evergreens are the safest; needles should bend, not drop when brushed by hand. Live decorations should never be burned.
  • Place a Christmas tree in water as soon as possible and refill the container often.
  • Keep tree trimmings with small, removable or breakable parts out of the reach of children. Children may swallow or inhale small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food which may tempt a child to ingest
  • Purchase an artificial tree labeled “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should be easily extinguishable.

Fireplaces and Ovens

  • Keep young children away from fireplaces and hot ovens.
  • Never leave children alone in the room with a fireplace.
  • Never burn wrapping paper or ribbons. They can break down into poisonous gases, resulting in a flash fire as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

In the event of a burn, it is important to immediately take the following steps:

  • Cool all burns with tepid to cool water. Continue cooling the area with water for up to 10 minutes. Do not apply ice, ointments, butter or other “home remedies.” Remove all clothing or garments surrounding injury to stop the burning process.
  • Cover affected areas with a clean dry cloth, towel or blanket to protect the burn and minimize pain.
  • Seek medical advice if there is sloughing of the skin. Seek urgent medical attention if the area of skin sloughing is larger than the victim’s palm size.

For more information about burn prevention and fire safety, call the Saint Barnabas Burn Outreach and Education office at 1-973-322-8071.

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