Holiday Poison Hazards | Illinois Poison Center 

Holiday Poison Hazards

Nov 25, 2020
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Watch out for Holiday Poison Hazards 


During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s easy to overlook the fact that some of the most unsuspecting items in homes can pose a real hazard. Unintentional poisonings can occur when daily household routines become disrupted, as is common during the holidays.

You can take steps to help ensure that your holiday season is safe and merry by being aware of the following potential hazards:


Food:    Lose Harmful Bacteria—Not Your Appetite—This Holiday Season


Alcohol: Children may drink unfinished alcoholic beverages during holidays when parties and celebrations are taking place. Alcohol can be very dangerous to small children, as well as to pets. For example, ingesting three ounces of hard liquor, such as whiskey, vodka or gin, is potentially fatal to a child weighing 25 pounds.


The symptoms of an alcohol overdose may be mild, such as dizziness and nausea, or they may progress to more serious complications, such as vomiting, drowsiness, difficulty breathing, coma and death. In children alcohol intoxication can also lower blood sugar to a dangerous level.


Christmas Decorations:

  • Solid wax candles are considered non-poisonous; neither coloring nor scent is present in an amount large enough to be significant. However, if large amounts are swallowed, diarrhea may develop. Liquid fuels in glass candle lamps can be very dangerous and should be kept well out of children’s reach.
  • Ornaments and other decorations can be a choking hazard.  Large or sharp items can cause injury to the esophogus, stomach or intestines. 
  • Snow spray can injure the eye if sprayed directly into the eye from a pressurized container. Follow the warning labels on the container.
  • Fireplace powders and logs which burn different colors contain heavy metals, such as lead, copper, barium and selenium. Ingestion of heavy metals can cause intense stomach and intestinal upset, along with other harmful symptoms. If this substance is ingested, call the IPC right away.

Christmas trees: Evergreens, such as balsams, cedar, fir, juniper and pine, are safe; if a few needles are swallowed, no toxicity is expected.  If a large amount of needles are ingested, call the IPC. Pine cones are generally considered non-toxic.


Plants: The IPC reminds people to always label or keep a record available of the species names of all the plants in your home.


Non-toxic holiday plants that are safe for your home include:

  • Bayberry •
  • Boxberry •
  • Christmas begonia • 
  • Christmas cactus • 
  • Christmas dagger fern •
  • •Christmas flower (see poinsettia; there is no evidence to support the idea that this plant is toxic)
  • Christmas kalanchoe
  • Christmas pride
  • Mistletoe 
  • Poinsettia 
  • Winter begonia

More toxic holiday plants (plants with moderate to major toxicity) you may want to avoid having in your home include:

  • Amaryllis •
  • Azalea •
  • Christmas berry
  • Christmas cherry
  • Christmas pepper • 
  • Christmas rose • 
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Holly
  • Jerusalem cherry
  • •Rhododendron
  • Winter broom
  • Winter cherry


Text to Save or post the IPC’s number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near your telephone and call the IPC if you suspect anyone has been exposed to a potentially harmful/toxic substance, even if no symptoms are present. Poison specialists at the IPC will advise you of the proper action to take. 

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