A new study from Children's Hospital Boston's Division of Emergency Medicine has found that holiday decorations, particularly glass ornaments, are one more safety hazard parents must consider during the season. A review of records from Children's Emergency Department revealed an average of five ornament-related injuries per year, of which, more than half involve a child eating fragments of these ornaments, including batteries and pieces of glass.

“Parents need to be vigilant during the holiday season, even though it's also a busy time of year,” says co-author Lois Lee, MD, MPH, of Children's Division of Emergency Medicine, who also directs the hospital's Emergency Department Injury Prevention Program. “If you know that your child has a tendency to put things in his or her mouth, you should be especially careful.”

The retrospective study was published in the December 2009 issue of Pediatric Emergency Care.

The study authors conducted a computer search through emergency department records from the hospital between October 1995 and March 2008. They found that:

  • 56 percent of these incidents involved ingestion or taking fragments of ornaments or light bulbs into the mouth.
  • More than a quarter of these injuries resulted in bleeding of the mouth or gastrointestinal tract.
  • 27 percent involved lacerations.
  • More than two-thirds of lacerations required surgical repair.
  • 85 percent required radiological screening.
  • 3 were examined for potential toxin exposure.
  • Two experienced minor electrocution.

The consistent injury rate occurring throughout the years examined in this study have researchers recommending that health professionals talk to parents about the use of holiday decorations and the hazards that can be avoided.