Holiday Safety Precautions; 'Tis the Season to be Careful!

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From the Office of the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale R. Burstein

Date December 18, 2015                              

CONTACT: Mary C. St. Mary/Mary.StMary@Erie.Gov

Phone: 716.858.4941/ Mobile: 716.253.3925

Holiday Safety Precautions

‘Tis the Season to be Careful!

ERIE COUNTY, NY— The holiday season is a time for relaxing and celebrating with friends and family. Unfortunately, the most wonderful time of the year can also prove hazardous to your health and safety. To ensure you make it to January 1 unscathed, follow these tips on how to avoid common holiday health hazards.


  • Water fresh Christmas trees daily.
  • Keep trees 3 feet away from heat sources (fireplaces, air vents, candles, space heaters).
  • Ensure candles and fires in fireplaces are completely extinguished before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Place candles at least 12 inches from anything flammable.
  • Follow manufacturers’ instructions for the number of light strands that can be safely connected.
  • Dispose of fresh trees after Christmas or when dry


  • Ensure everyone is safely buckled into a seat belt and car seats are properly installed.
  • Never drink and drive; use a designated driver or an alternate means to get home.
  • Never ride in a vehicle driven by an impaired driver.


  • Avoid cross contamination; use separate utensils for raw and cooked foods.
  • Wash hands and surfaces frequently during preparation.
  • Store food at recommended temperatures; thaw frozen foods as instructed in the refrigerator.
  • Cook foods to designated temperatures; use thermometer to confirm doneness.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold!
  • Refrigerated leftovers within two hours of eating.

Illness Prevention

  • Wash hands frequently to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Limit contact with friends or relatives who are ill.
  • If you haven’t received a flu vaccination, it is not too late to get one!


  • Holiday stress can take its toll. Try to take time for a break to relax in the middle of the holiday bustle.
  • Heart trouble can be exacerbated during the holidays by heavy meals, stress, ignoring chest pain so as to not ruin the holiday party, and not taking medications at routine times. Remember moderation is key. Listen to your body and take all of your meds as directed.

Kids and Pets

  • Holly and mistletoe can be toxic; falling berries and pine cones pose choking hazards.
  • Use flameless candles to avoid potential burns or house fires.
  • Monitor children and pets closely as they can accidentally access potentially dangerous items (alcohol, food, chocolate, liquid nicotine vials, decorations, toys with long strings that can pose a strangulation risk, or small toys or decorations that are a choking hazard)
  • Inspect toys that children receive to ensure there are no sharp edges or points, they do not contain toxic metals (lead, cadmium), have no small pieces that can cause a child to choke, and are of sturdy construction (pieces of plastic will not break off). 


  • Alcohol can lead to poor decision making and escalate minor disagreements into quarrels; drink responsibly and know your limit.
  • Keep alcoholic drinks away from children and pets.

“We hope everyone safely enjoys their holiday get-togethers over the next two weeks,” said Dr. Gale Burstein, Commissioner of Health. “Please keep in mind these reminders so that your celebrations can be enjoyable for all without the unwelcome addition of a visit to the Emergency Room.”

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For More Information:

Erie County Department of Health

NY State Department of Health

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. Food and Drug Administration  Holiday Food Safety

National Safety Council

Infograph of Holiday Safety Tips