Company’s Coming: Preventing Injuries During the Season of Visitors

iStock_000029382656FamilyGatheringSmallAfter several years of small or nonexistent gatherings, many families are looking forward to all being together. Young children and older adults may now be part of your household for a few hours or days. Whatever the length of the visit, now’s the time to check your home for hazards you may not have considered during the year:

  • Do you have good lighting at the top and bottom of stairs? Sturdy handrails on all stairs? You need these year-round, but they’re even more important when you have visitors who are less familiar with your home–especially older relatives who may have vision or mobility challenges.
  • What’s on your floors now? Children’s toys, visitors’ shoes, the food dishes of visiting pets—all of these can become tripping hazards. Keep pathways clear.
  • Speaking of pets, do your holiday decorations include plants that are poisonous? Most people believe poinsettias are the most dangerous to pets. But according to veterinarians, poinsettias can cause illness but are unlikely to be fatal. Much more dangerous are bulb plants like amaryllis and lilies. Holly and mistletoe are also considered moderately to highly toxic to pets. Learn about other plants that can be poisonous for pets here.
  • What’s on the guest room nightstand? Visitors accustomed to leaving their medications in easy reach may need to be gently reminded to keep them out of sight and reach when there are young children around. That could include grandma’s purse if it contains medications.
  • If the smoke alarm goes off tonight, would everyone be able to get out? Tell overnight guests about your family’s fire escape plan, including your meeting place, and show them how to open deadbolts or security bars. Guests with mobility challenges may need sleeping areas on the ground floor (Learn more about planning and practicing your home escape at

Learn more about reducing hazards of all kinds at

Safer Home Heating: Wood Stoves and Pellet Stoves

Logs on the fire

Wood stoves and pellet stoves (which burn compressed sawdust) are becoming a popular alternate heating source. They’re believed to cut energy costs and be environmentally friendly. Like all heating equipment, though, they must be used with care. Heating equipment is involved in more than 64,000 home structure fires every year, which cause 540 civilian deaths. If you are heating with a wood or pellet stove:

  • Be sure it’s properly installed, complying with manufacturer recommendations and local codes for installation and use. Make sure your stove has at least 36 inches clearance from anything that can burn, and proper floor support.
  • Wood stoves should be burned hot twice a day for 15-30 minutes to reduce the amount of creosote buildup.
  • Burn only the materials for which your stove is designed. Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.

Remember, wood stoves and pellet stoves are designed for heating. Cooking stoves should never be used for heating.

Learn more about wood and pellet heating, including safe installation and maintenance, from the Department of Energy.

Read about Safer Home Heating: Space Heaters


The Top 3 Causes of Scary Halloween ER Visits – And How to Prevent Them


Halloween frights should be fun, not painful. Avoiding a scary visit to the hospital is simple, but requires some forethought.

Here are the most common reasons kids visit the hospital on Halloween, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and tips for avoiding the trip:


Pedestrian collisions with vehicles

    • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children.
    • Use flashlights, and reflective tape on bags and costumes, to be more visible.
    • Avoid darting from house to house. Stay on the sidewalk and cross at corners. If there’ s no sidewalk, walk facing traffic.
    • If possible, choose hats and nontoxic makeup rather than masks, which can block a child’s vision (and yours if you’re the responsible adult!)

Eye injuries from sharp objects

    • Choose soft, flexible props when possible.
    • If a costume calls for swords, cane, or sticks, they should not be sharp, or too long (to avoid falls).

Burns from flammable costumes


Make sure costumes, wigs and accessories are made of flame-resistant materials.

  • Try a glow stick instead of a candle in jack o’lanterns.
  • Keep candlelit jack o’lanterns, and any candles, away from curtains and other flammable objects. Never leave them unattended.