FAMILIES risk an unwanted Christmas present of a trip to hospital in the coming week as toddlers get tipsy and tree baubles cause chaos.
For children in particular, there is temptation all around in the form of decorations, presents, bright berries and, of course, the Christmas tree, according to a warning from the National Poisons Centre at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.
"The abundance of party drinks around the home also increases the risk of alcohol poisoning in young children. We recommend that all children showing signs of alcohol intoxication should be assessed in a hospital emergency department," said a spokesman.
The health watchdog has issued advice on how to prevent Christmas becoming a crisis.
• Christmas trees: pine needles can cause choking in small children.
• Christmas decorations: decorations are non-toxic but plastic can cause bowel or airway obstruction. If children appear to be having trouble breathing or swallowing after eating or playing with decorations, they should be medically assessed.
• Gift packaging: expanded polystyrene is non-toxic when eaten but could cause obstruction if taken by a small child.
• Desiccant sachets: these are often found in leather goods and usually contain silica gel, which is non-toxic but, again, may lead to discomfort.
• Artificial Christmas snow: it often contains a chemical called methylene chloride. If eaten, thiscan cause burning and blistering of the lips, mouth and skin. There may also be vomiting, dizziness, confusion and more severe symptoms in serious cases. If the person is not complaining of any pain in the chest or abdomen, give them a glass of water to sip.
• Button batteries: symptoms can develop from obstruction or from batteries that leak after they are swallowed. For many people, the battery will enter the stomach and be passed without difficulty within two to seven days. In some cases, however, the battery may become trapped somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract. If a battery is swallowed, do not try to make the person vomit. Bring them to hospital.
• Christmas plants: poinsettia leaves can cause mild tummy upset with vomiting and diarrhoea. Holly berries and leaves contain the toxic compounds ilicin and theobromine. As few as two berries can cause nausea but serious symptoms are unlikely in most cases. If any of these plants are eaten, give the person a glass of water or milk to drink.