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Winter Holiday Hazards
1:55pm - 14/Dec/2009
Each season has special hazards and winter holidays are no exception. With the entertaining, gifts and decorations during the holidays, homes can be filled with bright and interesting things. Some can be toxic. Here are a few holiday hazards. If you suspect these substances have poisoned someone, call your local Poison Control Centre.  

ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES: Alcohol drinks can cause severe toxicity to a child. Symptoms include drowsiness, confusion and coma, vomiting and low blood sugar, especially in infants and young children.
CANDLES: Wax and synthetic candles have a low order of toxicity. Ingestion may result in diarrhea.  
DISC BATTERIES: Button batteries often come with watches, cameras and toys. If swallowed these may lodge in the esophagus or airway and can be an emergency. An initial x-ray is needed to ensure the battery has passed into the stomach. If it passes into the stomach, the stool will need to be checked until the battery passes.
GLOW STICKS: Glow sticks have a low order of toxicity. Biting into these can result in mild oral irritation. A splash in the eye can cause immediate stinging and burning sensation. This generally does not result in burns to the eye.
ICICLES and TINSEL: These are made of plastic with a nontoxic aluminum colouring. Ingestion of a large amount could be a choking hazard.  
LAMP OIL: Lamp oil is attractive to children because of its colour and fragrance. Ingestion of a small amount can be serious and lead to coughing, difficulty breathing and chemical pneumonia.
MEAT THERMOMETER: These contain a small amount of ethanol and a red dye. Ingestion of the liquid will not cause toxicity. If the thermometer breaks in the meat, remove that section of meat and any glass particles prior to serving.
• Christmas cactus: This plant is nontoxic. Ingestion may cause minor abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea in young children.
• Holly: Ingestion of large amounts of leaves or berries can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Ingestion of a few berries may cause only mild symptoms.  
• Poinsettia: The irritant sap may cause mouth, skin or eye irritation. Serious toxicity is unlikely from ingestion of 1 or 2 leaves but oral irritation, nausea and vomiting may occur.  
ROAD SALT: Commonly contains sodium chloride. Ingestion of less than one teaspoonful can cause vomiting but is unlikely to result in serious toxicity. Larger amounts can lead to severe vomiting, seizures and death.  
SNOW SCENE GLOBES: Ingestion of the “snow” particles is nontoxic. The liquid is usually water, however, some globes contain toxic ethylene glycol. Contact your poison control centre if the liquid is ingested.
SNOW SPRAY: “Snow” particles are an inert plastic. Ingestion is considered nontoxic but deliberate inhalation of the propellant may cause drowsiness, dizziness and confusion.

FOOD SAFETY: Don't let spoiled food spoil your holidays! Visit for some simple rules to prevent food poisoning.
TURKEY PREPARATION: For information regarding thawing, cooking, preparing and storing your holiday turkey, visit

PET SAFETY: Many people know that chocolate can be dangerous to dogs, but did you know that raisins and grapes, macadamia nuts, and bread dough could be problematic as well? Protect your pets this holiday season - keep Christmas decorations out of reach, and visit the American SPCA's Animal Poison Control Center ( and the Pet Poison Helpline ( for more tips on poison prevention for your pet.

Wishing you all the best, from your Canadian Association of Poison Control Centres! 
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