Disaster-proofing your home for the holidays

Bright colors, yummy smells and shiny decorations can make the holiday season magical, but if you have small kids or pets, it’s important to know the dangers lurking within all that celebrating.

When decking the halls, don’t forget to child and pet–proof them too. Start with your Christmas tree, which can be the biggest danger of the season.

“If you have small children or pets it can be a really good idea to anchor your tree,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “Otherwise, you might walk into the room and find your tree is toppled over. You can do that really easily with a little hook and some twine connected to the ceiling or the wall behind the tree.”

“There are gates you can use to kind of surround the tree,” added child safety expert Kent McCool. “If you got little ones that are crawling, you want to be concerned with the smaller type of ornaments, choking hazards.”

For pets, make electrical cords as unappetizing as possible.

“The area of wire that you have to expose, use a little bit of lemon juice or bitter apple, something on there just to dissuade them,” said veterinarian Dr. Tom Buchanan, “but again, I’d keep it unplugged when you can, but otherwise just put some kind of a bitter tasting product on the exposed wires.”

Take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food.

“Around the holidays, you introduce a lot of different choking hazards for your children and for pets,” Hicks added. “So, think about packaging material, plastic sleeves you might be using, as well as bows and wrapping paper. So, just be sure that you keep things up and off the floor.”

“Christmas time we see a lot of foreign bodies,” said Buchanan. “We had a kitty two years ago that ended up having to have most of its bowel removed because it had a ribbon it had eaten from a present and that caused a linear obstruction. Bulbs — we had a Labrador that ate a Christmas bulb intact that had to be removed from the stomach.”

Table cloths and runners usually hang at the perfect height for yanking or climbing, so you may want to skip those, along with certain holiday plants, which can cause health problems for pets.

“Lilies are something that people often don’t think about, but lily toxicity is actually one of the more common ones we see and they’re often around Christmas time,” Buchanan added, “and so, they can cause kidney failure and acute kidney failure. We just had a cat in here within the last month that had that. So, be real watchful for that.”

When you’re done decorating, it’s always a good idea to double check your disaster–proofing efforts.

“You know getting down on your hands and knees, and kind of seeing things from their perspective. When a baby starts crawling, you’d be surprised what you might see that could be dangerous to them,” said McCool.

Holly berries and mistletoe can also be toxic to dogs and cats.