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Shop Carefully This Holiday: Avoiding Risky Toys for Children


December 10, 2018

Store shelves are boasting brightly-colored boxes full of gadgets and toys that the children in your life will be asking for this holiday season. Low price tags tempt holiday shoppers with the best deals they’ve seen this year. But before you fill your cart with the season’s latest, make sure your purchases are the safest choices for the kids on your shopping list.

Check the toy’s packaging for age restrictions to ensure the gift is appropriate. These age guidelines take into account the game or toy’s compatibility with a child’s maturity, interest level, and risk for choking or injury.

You will also want to consider other children who live in the household, as an eight-year-old may be excited to receive a jewelry-making set complete with hundreds of small beads, but if there’s a two-year-old in the house, it might not be the best present.

“One of the many things we’ll see is toddlers putting beads into their nose or ears, and most often they found them in an older sibling’s playthings,” says Nancy Pook, MD, emergency physician and medical director of the Network Operations Command Center at Kettering Health Network.

If you have children in your home, supervision is key, especially if you have an older child with more complex toys and games. Find something age-appropriate to keep your little one occupied.

The most common toy-related incident sees with young children is eating or breathing in small objects, so it’s essential to keep them put away, especially small plastic toys which can’t be seen on an x-ray.

“Be attentive to what’s in the child’s environment,” Dr. Pook says. “Keep things organized and put in bins so the baby or toddler can’t get into something that may be sitting around.”

Ingestion of batteries, especially button batteries, can also be a dangerous risk factor for young children, as they can cause damage in just a couple of hours says Dr. Pook.

Prevention of risky situations is crucial to keeping your children safe; however, if an accident happens, you should know what to do. If a swallowed toy is blocking the child’s airway, it might be appropriate to perform the Heimlich maneuver, but you will want to call 911 immediately. Even if your child is breathing and does not appear to be distressed, it is still a good idea to bring them to the Emergency Department where doctors have special tools to remove the foreign bodies.

“Occasionally things like lead exposure will pop up in recently manufactured toys, but it’s rare,” Dr. Pook says. “Unfortunately, you just have to pay attention to safety warnings that come out later if it’s a brand new manufactured toy.”

For that reason, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the news during the first few weeks after popular toys have hit homes as holiday gifts. 

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