Poison control experts discuss holiday hazards

SALT LAKE CITY -- Chocolate, glass ornaments, small batteries and grandma’s purse are all items that may find their way into your house for the holidays and can pose a surprising danger to children or pets.

“We get some unique calls this time of year that have to do with the holidays,” said Sherrie Pace from the Utah Poison Control Center.

The center doesn’t see a big spike in calls, but the kind of calls they get tend to shift during the holiday season. Medications can be a concern all year long, but during the holidays with visiting relatives, poison control centers say it’s easier for kids to mistake medication for a treat.

“You can see here there are pills and candy has spilled out, you cannot tell the difference,” said Pace, showing some pills next to a pile of Skittles.

Mini magnets, common in some toys, can bind together if swallowed. As part of its 10-day holiday poison countdown, Utah Poison Control tweeted a picture of a hot dog with a button battery inside to demonstrate what could happen if a child swallows a battery. After three hours, the battery burned away part of the hot dog.

Kids are not the only ones who get into trouble during the holidays.

“We see a lot of pets that get into things they are not supposed to this time of year,” said Jennifer Alterman, a veterinarian with Blue Pearl Animal Hospital in Midvale.

Chocolate can be dangerous for dogs, particularly baking chocolate. There may also be something under the tree for your dog that can prove a big mistake.

“Sometimes they even give their dogs bones for Christmas, as Christmas presents," Alterman said. "Bones are dangerous."

Bones, she says, can break teeth and lead to internal bleeding. For cats, the danger is often tied to their playful nature.

“The tinsel is a huge one with cats, they really are attracted to it and unfortunately when they eat it, it can bind their intestines,” Alterman said.

Whether it is your kids or your pets, a little caution can go a long way. And if you have doubts, help (for your kids) is just a phone call away. Utah Poison Control can be reached at 1-800-222-1222.