Five Holiday Hazards to Avoid

Snow falling, lights twinkling, and beautiful decorations: The holidays are filled with magic and wonder. But picturesque snow can also translate into dangerous, icy paths; Sparkling lights can pose fire hazards; and beautiful decorations like artificial beads and berries can be harmful to little kids and pets.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, some 12,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms every year for holiday-related injuries ranging from falls to electrical shocks. Here are five holiday mishaps you’ll want to avoid to protect your loved ones:

1. Holiday Hazard: Icy Walkways
Frozen paths can lead to slips, slides and broken bones. Apply a non-toxic ice-melt product like Road Runner or economical Rock Salt, along with safety-boosting low-voltage outdoor path lights to help ensure your visitors -- especially elderly relatives -- come and go safely. Follow package directions and always keep unused product out of the reach of kids and pets. 

2. Holiday Hazard: Falling Tree Limbs
Check trees along routes people frequently traffic for weak or damaged branches that need to be removed. After a storm, gently remove the snow from branches rather than allowing melting snow and ice to build up, which further weakens limbs.

3. Holiday Hazard: Improper Lighting
Indoor and outdoor lights are the culprits of thousands of annual fires. Be sure your lights have a U.S. seal certifying they’ve been tested for safety. Look over sets that have been in storage and discard any showing frayed wires or broken sockets. Never attach more than three standard-size sets to one extension cord, and keep outside cords clear of snow and standing water.

If you’re securing outside lights (get a buddy to hold the ladder, please!) with a stapler, be sure not to damage the wire, which might cause friction, heat and fire. And as an added layer of precaution, turn off all your holiday lights before going to bed or leaving the house.

4. Holiday Hazard: Fireplace Misuse
Never toss discarded boxes or gift wrappings into a fire. Wrapping papers can ignite quickly leading to a dangerous flash fire. Recycling is a better option. Many neighborhoods around the country feature curbside programs or sponsor drop-off centers for recycling. And even Santa would agree: Don’t hang stockings from the mantel if the yuletide logs are blazing.

5. Holiday Hazard: Ornaments
Glass ornaments look so pretty, it’s easy to forget their dark side: They can shatter into dangerous shards. Choose only decorations that are suitable for your family and pets. Tinsel and ribbon are cat magnets. And holiday plants like amaryllis, holly and mistletoe are poisonous for kids as well as pets. If necessary, install a child’s safety gate (like Lowe’s Evenflo) to keep kids and the family dog safe and sound.