Current Health Topics
December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month
The holiday season is a time for family, fun, and festivity, but it can also be a time of danger for children. Toys are supposed to be fun and part of a child's development, but each year many children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries. As the holidays approach, parents and caregivers should be aware of the dangers of batteries, magnets and small toys, as these all have the potential to be choking hazards; which is a particular risk for kids ages 3 or younger. If a toy passes through an empty toilet paper roll, it is too small for a child under the age of 3.
Avoid Common Hazards:
- Choking is the most common cause of toy-related deaths. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSA), at least 41 children aspirated or choked to death from 2005 - 09 on balloons, toys, or toy parts.
- Bigger is better - Do not buy small toys or toys with small parts for children under age 3. Children at this age often love to put things in their mouth.
- Read and heed warning labels - Toys with small parts intended for children between ages 3 and 6 are required by law to include an explicit choking hazard warning.
- Never give young children small balls or balloons - Small balls, balloons and pieces of broken balloons are particularly dangerous, as they can completely block a child's airway. Balls for children under 6 years old must be more than 1.75 inches in diameter. Never give latex balls to children younger than 8 years old.
- Magnetic toys with Powerful Magnets - New, powerful small magnets used in most magnetic building toys, toy darts, magnetic jewelry, and other toys can fall out of small toys and look like shiny candy. If a child swallows more than one magnet, the magnets can attract each other in the body (in the stomach and intestines) and cause life-threatening complications. If a child swallows even one magnet, seek immediate medical attention.
- Watch or "button" batteries - Keep watch or button batteries away from children. If swallowed, the battery acid can cause fatal internal injuries.
- Noise - Children's ears are sensitive. If a toy seems too loud for your ears, it is probably too loud for a child. Take the batteries out of loud toys or cover the speakers with tape.
- Strangulation Hazards -
Mobiles: Keep mobiles out of the reach of children in cribs and remove them before the baby is five months old or can push him/herself up.
Cords: Remove knobs and beads from cords longer than one foot to prevent the cords from tangling into a dangerous loop.
Drawstrings: Clothing with drawstrings on the hood can get caught on fixed objects like playground equipment and pose a strangulation hazard.
Lead and Other Toxic Chemicals: Some children's toys and cosmetics may contain lead or other toxic chemicals, including phthalates. While most lead and phthalates started being phased out of toys beginning in 2009, older toys may still contain them.
- Accessorize your kids for safety - Toys such as bicycles, scooters, skateboards and inline skates are safer when children wear protective gear. If you plan to give any of these toys as gifts, make them safer by also giving a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards.
- Stay informed of recalls - The CPSC recalls numerous toys and children's products each year. Check www.recalls.gov for an archive of old recalls and to sign up to receive email alerts of new recalls.
- Report a Dangerous Toy: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has the authority to recall dangerous toys and products from the market. If you think a toy or product is hazardous, contact the CPSC and submit a report by:
Website: Report a dangerous toy at www.saferproducts.gov
There are age ranges and safety precautions on the boxes for a reason. Just because your four-year-old has his eyes on some robotic dog in the store doesn't mean it's what you should get him....especially if the box says it's for children five years and older. Toys for older children may have smaller parts, sharper edges and may be made of more flammable materials. For reasons such as these, it's important to read everything written on the box before purchasing a toy.
During this time of year, it's easy to get caught up in great sales and exciting advertisements. But for the sake of your little family member or friend, practice toy and gift safety!