Grandparents Guide to the Holidays Grandparents Guide to the Holidays

This is the time for families to gather together from far and near. Many young families live far away from the grandparents and instead of going over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house, they are going over the interstates and through the airports.

Preparing your house :

Get down on the floor and crawl around as if you were a baby. Watch out for coins, exposed nails, extension cords, dangling cords from appliances, and shades. Cover electrical outlets and any sharp edges on a coffee table. Check the stability of furniture, such as TV stands and bookcases. Get a non-skid mat for the bathroom and faucet covers. There is a comprehensive Home Safety Check list on the web site of the American Academy of Pediatrics (


Accidental burns can happen as hot foods and liquids are being served. If a splash burn occurs, immediately douse the area with anything cold, and rip off the child's clothes. Put a cool compress over the burn and rush the child to the emergency room. Toddlers running around a grandparents house can mistake a tea cozy over a tea pot for a toy, or knock over a coffee machine.


When an adult has an infant in his/her arms, they can't see the floor and can more easily trip and fall. When carrying a baby, keep a grip on his/her knee. In the event of a fall, the adult's reflex will be to clutch the baby against his/her chest to protect him. If you don't have a crib or playpen for the baby to sleep in, make a bassinet out of a drawer or basket with special attention that the surface is firm, that the baby can't roll on his/her stomach, or get tangled in fabric. Between the ages of 12 and 36 months, children have lots of motility but little judgment. Don't let them anywhere in the house unattended. They can climb to the top of a piano, climb bunk beds, or fall out a window.

Wandering away

Toddlers can also walk out an open door and decide to take a walk. They can also wander away in a mall and not respond when people call out their names. When in crowded areas like an airport, dress a toddler in something bright, and put a piece of identification in his/her pocket. You can also write your cell phone number in ink on his/her torso.


Many grandparents in the Sun belt have pools that can be directly accessed from the patio. This is a potentially treacherous situation if the patio can be accessed from the house.


Because babies and young children breathe more quickly than adults, they are more susceptible to CO and other fumes. Have a CO as well as a smoke detector and don't let the grandchildren sleep in an under-ventilated area. Also, don't fall asleep with the dryer on. If you have smokers in the house, air out the house before the baby arrives and banish them to an outdoor smoking area. Smoke can especially aggravate infants and toddlers who have a cough/cold, especially if there is a family history of asthma. Cat, dog dander and mold can also be aggravations. If an infant lives day to day in a house with a cat, they can become desensitized to it. However, if he/she has a cold and is visiting an under-ventilated house with high concentration of cat/dog dander, or mold, the child's cough can worsen. You can decrease dander by vacuuming after sprinkling anti-allergen powder or baking soda on the rug. You can also do this for a couch in which a cat has been sitting and covering it with an afghan or bedspread.

Avoiding Colds

Keep the house well ventilated during big family gatherings to dilute any respiratory viruses. Have anyone who is going to hold a baby wash his/her hands and don't pass the baby around the room. Let young infants stay in their parents' arms or those of designated relatives. If the baby is going to be put on the floor in an infant seat, keep it at least three feet away away from toddlers and preschoolers who can be asymptomatic carriers of germs.

Supplies to have on hand

  • Alcohol based hand-sanitizers for handwashing
  • Fever reducers: acetaminophen and ibuprofen (Medications Doses: on this site).
  • Bacitracin or antibiotic ointment for cuts.
  • Pedialyte or other electrolyte solution for diarrhea.
  • Extra flashlights and candles for power outages.

Some other tips

It's a good idea to ask your internist or pharmacist the name of several local pediatricians in the neighborhood who would be able to see your grandchild in the event they were to get sick during their visit. Also, find out which is the best emergency room for pediatrics in your area. Parents should travel with their insurance cards. In the event the grandchild has to visit an emergency room, ask that the discharge diagnosis reflect the seriousness of the visit. For example, if a baby with a 104 fever is seen at an out of state emergency room, if the discharge diagnosis is "upper respiratory infection", the insurance company might balk. Also, some HMOs will pay for an out of network if the person is seen at the emergency room, and not if they are seen by a non-participating doctor. If a local doctor sees your grandchild, you can expect that insurance might not pay for the visit or any associated blood work/tests.