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Warning over dangers posed to children by Christmas presents and decorations

Published 23/12/2015

Many Christmas presents and decorations can be a choking hazard, doctors have warned
Many Christmas presents and decorations can be a choking hazard, doctors have warned

A leading children's doctor has warned of the dangers posed by Christmas presents and decorations.

Julie-Ann Maney, a consultant paediatrician in Belfast and member of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, has urged parents to be more aware of choking hazards and poisoning.

She said: "Young children are particularly inquisitive and love to put things in their mouths, noses and ears.

"Many Christmas decorations can be a choking hazard and new toys can come with small pieces that are easy to swallow, so try to ensure any new gifts are suitable for your child's age and decorations that might pose a threat are out of reach.

"Winter berries are also enticing to children thanks to similarities to shiny round sweets. Some berries can be poisonous, including those found on mistletoe, so do supervise young children if they are playing near to berry bushes or tell them about the dangers so they know."

Button batteries are also an extreme danger.

Dr Maney said: "Just last week a child came into A&E after swallowing a button battery.

"Parents must ensure that toys, Christmas lights and any other electronic devices have lockable battery compartments so are safe for children to use."

Dr Maney also warned of the higher risk of burns, particularly from candles and hair straighteners.

She said: "It may sound obvious, but do try to avoid any nasty accidents over this period by keeping candles and matches away from children, and by ensuring you have a sturdy fire guard around your fireplace.

"Hair straighteners also pose a huge risk with one in 10 children admitted to hospitals with burns as a result of hair straighteners. So ensure you switch them off straight after use, and store them out of sight and reach of children."

Meanwhile, overindulging is also an issue.

Children are known to eat up to 6,000 calories on Christmas day - nearly four times what a five-year-old should eat in one day, the doctor said.

This, coupled with statistics showing that three-quarters of children in Northern Ireland are not meeting the recommended guideline of 60 minutes of physical activity a day, gives cause for concern, she said.

Dr Maney added: "Christmas is a time to be enjoyed - and eating sweet and rich foods and family favourite films is part of that - but try to balance that out by using the time off school to get your children outside and enjoying the cold, crisp weather. It could be the perfect opportunity for them to try out that new set of skates or scooter."

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