Holiday safety tips from the Trauma experts of The Montreal Children’s Hospital

How to avoid a trip to the Trauma Centre
The Montreal Children’s Hospital wishes you all a happy holiday season and reminds parents and family members to be mindful of their children. Last year during the two week holiday period, many children were treated for injuries in the MCH ER. More than half of these injuries occurred at home and were preventable. Injuries such as head traumas and broken bones from falls, choking on small toys, hot liquid burns and poisonings can be avoided with a little extra supervision and planning.

MCH Trauma specialists have a few important holiday safety tips to share with parents, children and teens:

Play safely in the home
  • With respect to toys containing lead paint, Dr. Dominic Chalut, MCH toxicologist, has a few tips for parents. “Don’t panic! Lead poisoning occurs only after prolonged exposure to the substance. There is no need to worry about lead poisoning in children who occasionally play with toys with lead paint. Their exposure to lead will be minimal.” However, he recommends that their use should be discontinued.

If you are worried about the potential lead content of the paint used on various toys or other product recalls, visit

  • Choose toys appropriate to your child’s age and stage of development. Do not give toys with small parts to infants and toddlers as they are at risk of choking. Keep batteries away from children and pets.
  • Pets are sometimes given as gifts. However, they are not toys; dog bites are very common during the holidays. Keep a close watch on small children when they interact with dogs or other pets.
  • To avoid falls from heights, do not leave babies and young children unattended on tables or countertops, even for a second.

Holiday decorations and entertaining

  • Keep fragile Christmas trees and other decorations out of the reach of small, curious hands.
  • If you visit friends and relatives who do not have young children, their homes may not be child-proofed. Ensure that pills and cleaning supplies are out of reach of young children.
  • Do not leave lit candles unattended and keep them well out of reach of children. Supervise your children when they are lighting candles. 
  • Do not hold your child in your arms while you are cooking.
  • Keep hot liquids out of reach of your children.

Debbie Friedman, MCH Trauma Director, encourages kids and teens to be active and have fun but at the same time be aware of the risks and make sure that a great day of winter fun does not end at the ER of a trauma centre.

While enjoying winter activities such as skiing, sledding, skating, and snowboarding, the whole family should remember to:

  • Wear standardized and well-fitting protective headgear and other sport-specific equipment. Receiving proper training and instructions about the use of equipment is important.
  • Check the surface of the hill for icy conditions and obstacles. Ski, sled or snowboard only in an area designated for the activity.  Do not venture off to out-of-bound areas; stick to skill appropriate hills.
Friedman adds that we strongly support initiatives promoting the use of ski helmets for everyone.
Lisa Grilli and Liane Fransblow, Injury Prevention Program Trauma Coordinators, remind everyone that road safety is especially important at this time of year when many people are travelling.

When driving:

  • Car seats and boosters must meet approved standards. To be effective, they need to be properly installed and used as per age restriction.
  • Children under the age of 13 should sit in the backseat.
  • Everyone must always wear his/her own seatbelt. Never use one seat belt to secure two children.
  • Respect traffic lights, stop signs and do not exceed the speed limit.
  • Never leave a child or pet in a car while the motor is running. In the winter, the exhaust pipe can become blocked by snow, and the idling can cause carbon monoxide poisoning leading to death.

For more information on trauma and injury prevention topics, visit our trauma website: .  

On behalf of MCH Trauma, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season and a healthy New Year.