The gathering of family and friends at holiday parties can be an exciting and wonderful experience for children. However, Children’s National Emergency Medicine pediatrician, Joanna Cohen, MD, warns parents that holiday parties can also present some hidden dangers to your little ones. Learn about the potential dangers and how you can make holiday parties safe for kids.

  • Swallowing and choking. Dr. Cohen noted that holiday decorations, such as tree ornaments or light bulbs, and small toys at holiday parties can easily be swallowed and cause a child to choke. Keep these potential choking hazards out of reach from young children or actively supervise your child at a holiday party. Dr. Cohen also emphasized that parents should make sure toys are age appropriate and do not contain small parts that children could swallow or choke on.
  • Lacerations. In the excitement of exchanging gifts, children can cut their hands on the plastic encasing trying to open toys or other gifts. Dr. Cohen recommended that parents either help children open the gift or make sure they have tools that are age appropriate for opening it.
  • Burns. Dr. Cohen urged parents to be cautious of hot foods and beverages at holiday parties. If a young child pulls down a hot food or beverage on themselves, it could cause scald burns. She also emphasized that parents should closely supervise children around fireplaces and stoves, which can cause severe burns to a little one’s hands and face. Dr. Cohen noted that parents should always leave the oven door closed and keep pot handles turned in from the front of the stove.
  • Food poisoning. At holiday parties, food can be left on tables for hours and if consumed, Dr. Cohen said, could cause bacterial infections. Parents should supervise what their children are eating at holiday parties and make sure prepared foods are put away after two hours.  

It’s important for parents to remember that not everyone may have their home childproofed the same way. In addition, Dr. Cohen noted that parents should know what their child is capable of, especially if they have a baby who is now crawling or walking.

Share your tips for keeping children safe at holiday parties this year!


Joanna Cohen Joanna Cohen, MD, is an attending in the emergency department (ED) at Children's National. Her primary research interest includes bedside ultrasonography in the ED.

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