The Poison Control Center

Holiday Hazards: Tips for a Safe and Happy Holiday Season

Take time to child-proof and poison-proof your home. Remember, more than 60 percent of calls received by the Poison Control Center involve children 6 years of age or younger.

Alcohol (ethyl alcohol)
Automotive products
Food safety
Holiday decorations
Snow sprays
Tobacco products

Alcohol (Ethyl Alcohol)

Ethyl alcohol is found in aftershave, cologne, perfume, mouthwash (as much as 20 percent), food extracts (vanilla extract can contain up to 70 percent) and alcoholic beverages. Depending on the amount ingested, symptoms in young children can range from nausea, vomiting and dizziness to a life-threatening drop in blood sugar levels. Keep products containing alcohol out of the reach of small children. Do not go to sleep before emptying all glasses that contained alcoholic beverages. Your child may wake up before you, wander downstairs and drink your leftovers.

Automotive Products

Windshield washer fluid, dry gas and antifreeze contain methanol and ethylene glycol and are extremely dangerous. A small child can be severly poisoned by taking as little as one swallow. Antifreeze has a sweet taste, which increases the likelihood of large ingestions by young children. Remove any spilled product immediately. Your pets may also drink antifreeze and be severely poisoned.


Disk or button batteries are a choking hazard. Disk batteries that are swallowed can cause severe burns to the esophagus and stomach if they become stuck and begin to leak their caustic contents.


Food Safety

By following a few simple rules, you can reduce your family's risk of developing food poisoning:


Raw or undercooked eggs can make you and your children sick. Avoid eggnog and sauces that may contain raw eggs.


Poultry thawed at room temperature may contain dangerously high levels of bacteria. Thaw your holiday turkey in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter. Thaw a 16 to 18 pound turkey in the refrigerator in its original wrapper for 3 to 4 days. Thaw an 8 to 12 pound turkey in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Thawed turkeys should be used within 2 days.

If you must stuff your turkey or chicken, pack the stuffing loosely inside the body cavity of the bird. Stuffing that is packed too tightly can prevent the inside of the bird from cooking properly.

Never stuff your turkey or chicken in advance. Place the stuffing inside the body cavity just prior to placing the bird in the oven for roasting. As an alternative, stuffing can be cooked or baked in a separate dish to assure safety.

Use a meat thermometer when cooking poultry or follow published cooking guidelines.

Safe storage

To avoid the growth of bacteria on your food, do not allow poultry, meat or dairy products to remain at room temperature for more than two hours. Keep hot foods hot (above 140 degrees F) and cold foods cold (below 40 degrees F).

If you have any additional questions about cooking meat or poultry, call the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-800-535-4555 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST and speak to their experienced home economist. The Hotline is also TDD-accessible.


Holiday Decorations

Tinsel and angel hair can cause choking if swallowed. Small tree ornaments, miniature lights, etc., can easily break and cause cuts and choking. Keep ornaments out the reach of young children and pets.


Poisonous holiday plants include: mistletoe, holly, Jerusalem cherry, boxwood and various species of the yew. As little as three mistletoe berries can result in toxicity. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not considered toxic when consumed in small amounts. Learn more about poisonous plants.

Snow Sprays

Inhaling the propellant inside the aerosol can be toxic. Children playing with aerosol cans may accidentally spray contents into their own or a sibling's eyes.

Tobacco Products

Nicotine is poisonous to children. Small amounts can cause nausea and vomiting. Larger quantities can result in more serious effects, such as seizures. Keep tobacco products out of the reach of children. As with alcoholic beverages, dispose of used tobacco products before going to bed.


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