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Baltimore County Now

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Keyword: health

photo of poinsettia plantDr. Barbara McLean, Chief of Prevention and Protection, Baltimore County Animal Services, Baltimore County Department of Health

The same foods, decorations and lighting that make the holidays come alive for people can turn deadly when it comes to your pet. Especially vulnerable to the season’s delights are dogs, cats and birds.

Foods that you enjoy this time of year aren’t necessarily appropriate for your pet. Avoid giving your pet scraps from the table—especially bones since they can splinter and cause serious health problems. Other tasty treats that your pet should not eat are onions, grapes, raisins and chocolate. Beware of individually wrapped candies since your pet doesn’t know that the wrapper isn’t for eating, and as a result, it might easily ingest both the candy and the wrapper.

If serving alcoholic beverages, make sure unattended drinks are out of your pet’s reach. Alcohol can cause animals to become weak, ill or even go into a deadly coma. If having a party, your best bet is to ensure that your animal is in a quiet room of his or her own complete with a bed, food, water, toys and wearing his or her identification information.

Other seasonal items that can cause problems for your pet are plants. Amaryllis, hibiscus, holly, lilies, mistletoe, poinsettias and certain types of ivy should be placed in a spot that your pet cannot access. Among other things, if ingested, these items can cause kidney failure, fatal heart problems and just plain old upset stomachs.  

Christmas trees should be anchored securely as climbing cats and dogs with tails can easily knock them over. Hang breakable, glass ornaments, lights and tinsel high on the tree to prevent your pet from ingesting tinsel, which can block the intestines and from getting tangled in a string of lights. Also, avoid using edible tree decorations such as cranberry or popcorn strings since your pet will be tempted to sniff and taste these items.

Be sure to keep your pet safe from the dangers lurking beneath and around your Christmas tree as well. Fallen pine needles should be cleaned up frequently since they can be toxic when eaten by your pet, and always ensure that your tree’s water supply is covered.

And finally, just as you would do for a toddler- kitten or puppy proof your home. Cover electrical outlets and cords. Or, consider using pet proof extension cords or animal anti-chew sprays of which there are several varieties. Prevent accidental electrocutions by taping exposed outdoor or indoor wires to the sides of the house or the wall.

I hope that these helpful tips will keep you and your furry/feathered friends safe and happy this holiday season.


child stacking blocks spelling Linda Grossman, M.D.
Chief, Bureau of Clinical Services
Baltimore County Department of Health

Gift-giving holidays are approaching and family and friends will be headed off to purchase presents for children of all ages.  When looking for the perfect gift for a child, safety should be the first thing on your mind. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, in 2013 there were 188,400 children treated in emergency rooms for toy-related injuries and the majority of toy-related fatalities in 2013 were attributed to asphyxiation or choking. 

Ensure that the toys you are buying for the children in your life are age-appropriate, safe as well as fun, by using the following tips.

Avoid Choking Hazards

·        Toys for children under the age of three years old should be wider than 1 ¼ inches (about the diameter of the cardboard tube inside toilet paper) and longer than 2 ¼ inches (about the length of an adult thumb). 

Select Hazard-free Toys

·        Look for bisphenol A (BPA) free plastics, especially for children under age three, since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed concern regarding the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.

·        Think twice about toys manufactured in and imported from other countries.  Standards regarding toy safety in other countries are often quite different from United States standards.

·        Be especially careful of painted toys since they may contain lead paint.

Check the Recall List

·        Make it a practice to check the Consumer Product Commission recall list. This will save you time and the hassles of standing in post-holiday return lines.

Remember, the best toys are ones that foster creativity and are appropriate for the child’s age – both in terms of safety and their ability to promote creativity and foster child development. For more holiday safety tips, visit the Department of Health website. 


Michelle Marseilles Bruns
Manager, Caregiver Program
Baltimore County Department of Aging

No doubt you know a family caregiver because there are thousands of them across our region. They are the sons, daughters-in-law, spouses, adult grandchildren, neighbors and close friends who are providing care and support to seniors in our community. They do this out of a concern for the safety and well-being of their loved one. It is a labor of love.

November is National Family Caregivers Month. It is a designated time each year to recognize the countless hours that families provide, without financial compensation, to keep seniors at home as independently as possible. In recognition of this occasion, why not give the gift of your time to offer to the family caregiver so they may take a short break from their caregiving tasks. Offer to visit with their loved one, while they go out for some “time off.”

Currently, the Maryland Caregiver Support Coordinating Council has posted a Family Needs Survey that will be posted online through December 31. In order to get an accurate portrait of current caregiving needs statewide, caregivers can take the survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/dhrcaregiver  to answer questions about the care provided to loved ones, how caregiving has impacted their life and various needs as a family caregiver.

Caring for a loved one can be stressful, but there are resources to help. Contact Maryland Access Point (MAP) of Baltimore County at 410-887-2594 for information and assistance related to older adults and persons with disabilities.


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