HOLIDAYS CAN BE hazardous to your health. That doesn't mean you need to stop celebrating them, but it is a good idea to build a little extra caution into your holiday routine, especially if you have youngsters around the house.
Decorations, new toys, travel and a greater risk of fire at this time of year increase the chances for children to suffer preventable injuries, which kill more than 8,000 children a year, according to the Maryland Safe Kids Coalition. This non-profit group represents dozens of Maryland organizations interested in the health and safety of children.
Here are a few tips from the coalition for safer, happier holidays:
* Never buy a bicycle that is too big for a child; his feet should be able to touch flat on the ground when he is stopped. Make sure the bicycle has reflectors.
* If you're giving a child a bicycle, also give him a helmet. If a helmet fits correctly, it will sit level on a child's head, cover his forehead and not rock from side to side. Buy only helmets approved by the American National Standards Institute or the Snell Memorial Foundation; approved helmets will be so labeled.
* Trim your Christmas tree with children in mind. Don't put breakable ornaments, decorations with small parts or those that look like food or candy on the lower branches.
* Turn off tree lights when you leave the house or go to bed.
* Keep Christmas trees and greens away from fireplaces.
* If you plan to visit friends or relatives who do not have children, do a safety check of the house, moving dangerous substances out of reach, covering exposed electrical outlets and putting sharp utensils and appliances out of children's reach in bathrooms and kitchens.
* Be sure to use child safety seats for car travel. If your children are under 4 years of age or 40 pounds, they must be in a safety seat at all times, according to Maryland law. Maryland Kids in Safety Seats (KISS) has a loaner program through which families can rent safety seats. For more information, phone Maryland KISS at 410-225-1376.
And for more information on preventing injuries during the holidays, and throughout the year, contact the Safe Kids Coalition at 820 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park, 21146-4125, phone 544-5650.
The Carroll County YMCA in Westminster has a family-friendly idea whose time is near.
The Y is sponsoring a Holiday Camp, which will be in session when school isn't, during the last two weeks of the year. For children 5 to 12, there will be arts and crafts, sports, games and special events tied to the holidays. The first camp session is Dec. 23, 24, 26 and 27; session two is Dec. 30, 31 and Jan. 2, 3. Children can come for one session or even one day. For more information, call the YMCA at 876-1194.
Remember the birds
Winter is almost upon us. Here's a natural way to feed the birds, courtesy of "The Castle Times," the newsletter of Baltimore's Cloisters Children's Museum:
If you find a pine cone, spread peanut butter on it and roll it in bird seed, which will stick to the peanut butter. Then, attach a colorful ribbon to the top of the cone and hang it from a tree branch. Be sure to put it where you can see it, so you can watch the birds snacking.
Almost nine months after the end of Operation Desert Storm, some of the 30,000 Marines and sailors who went to war from Camp Pendleton, Calif., are making up for lost time and starting an apparent baby boom. The first war babies are due this month. Early signs indicate there is a 17 percent increase in military family pregnancies over the preceding two years, and that rate is expected to climb. "Everybody's gut feeling is we've got a baby boom," said Navy Capt. William Rowley, commanding officer of the Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton.