Dangers of holiday decor

HOUSTON – A UT Health emergency physician said people arrive at the hospital most frequently on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years with burns caused by Christmas trees and candles.

Unfortunately, we’re so busy this time of year and we forget the house is full of flammables! So, Dr. Richard Bradley toured one home to point out the top décor dangers.

Christmas Trees

Bradley states he would never have a real Christmas tree.

“Christmas tree fires burn so much more rapidly, and so much more intensely that when a Christmas tree is part of the house fire, the house fire gets much hotter, intensifies much more quickly, and really reduces the time that you have to escape from a fire,” he said.

Sadly, he’s seen it happen. 

As an emergency medicine doctor at Memorial Hermann Red Duke Trauma Institute, he said, “If you need 60 to 90 seconds to escape from a house, but the Christmas tree fire in a house like this, if this was a live tree, if you were upstairs you probably wouldn't have time to get down the stairs before this tree, if it was live, made this escape route completely unusable.”

Check smoke detectors monthly

In addition to replacing batteries in your smoke detector twice a year, press the button on the outside of the detector to test the alarm once a month.

“Having a smoke detector in your house cuts the chance of dying in a house fire by 50%,” Bradley said.

Choking hazards

While Bradley recommends artificial trees because they are non-flammable, he said they are not free from hazards.

Come down to ground level and it’s easier to see how dogs, cats and kids are exposed to choking hazards.

“Shiny ornaments are super attractive to a child,” he said. “Look out for little things like these little ornaments here that look like fruit. Well, to a toddler who might be hungry… if they can get that off, this can go in their mouth and we know that choking is the second most common cause of unintentional death in that age range.”

Candles and stockings

Candles, according to Bradley, spark fires when left close to other decorations. He recommends battery-operated candles.

Hanging stockings above a fire place may not be touching the flames, but heat can still spark fire when the stockings get too hot.


Poinsettias may cause a stomach ache. However, Bradley said the plants are not as toxic and deadly as they’re rumored.