While buying the hottest and trendiest toys for your child may be tempting as Christmas fast approaches, the doctors and nurses at East Georgia Regional Medical Center remind everyone that safety should always be the first priority. Nothing spoils a holiday celebration faster than an unexpected trip to the emergency room.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2016, there were more than 174,000 toy-related injuries treated in ERs across the country, and seven tragic, toy-related deaths of children younger than age 15.
As you plunge in this final week of Christmas toy-buying this season, take a deep breath, exercise caution, and read these tips and facts from emergency services experts before you buy.
“Over the past few years, riding toys – and specifically non-motorized scooters – have been the toy category associated with the most injuries,” said Dr. C. Alan Scott, MD, FACP, FAAP.
Dr. Scott is the medical director of Emergency Services at East Georgia Regional Medical Center. “Parents tend to take fewer precautions with these toys, and to allow younger children to use them, perhaps perceiving them to be less dangerous than the motorized versions,” he said. “The resulting injuries – especially to the head and face – can be devastating, and even unfortunately fatal. “Additionally, use caution opening presents and packages. Use scissors rather than knives, and be aware that hard plastic packaging when cut, can return the cut back to you.”
1. Gift the appropriate safety gear, too. You want children receiving your gifts to use all the gear necessary for them to enjoy their new toys safely. Protective gear should accompany all types of riding toys, including harnesses for rocking horses and helmets for bikes, scooters, skateboards, and – yes – hoverboards.
2. Speaking of hoverboards…these vehicles got wildly popular very quickly, but come with a high level of caution from safety experts. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there have been 13 burn injuries, three smoke inhalation injuries, and two deaths related to hoverboards since 2015 – not to mention more than $4 million in property damage. Not recommended for kids by our ED physicians, but if you decide to gift one, take the highest level of precautions – and NEVER allow the unit to be charged unattended, or by a child.
3. Avoid toys with small parts. For children three years and younger, avoid giving toys that may contain small parts. Toddlers tend to put anything in sight into their mouths, and parts that can fit into a paper towel roll can cause choking if swallowed. Toddlers also are fond of putting objects in their ears and noses, two more good reasons to stay away from anything with small parts.
4. Check for durability. Children of all ages are often anything but gentle with their toys. Look for quality design and construction in all toys for all ages. Only buy toys that seem sturdy and able to withstand impact and/or chewing without breaking or splintering.
5. Check for recalls. Over the past decade, the CPSC has recalled millions of toys for various safety reasons, such as lead content and dangerous parts. To make sure the toys you are buying are safe, check the latest recalls at https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls .
6. Be a label reader. Most toys for children under 12 have the appropriate age range printed on them – use them. And for older children, be wary of “supervision required” labels. Before you buy, ask yourself if you’re willing to supervise. If not, don’t assume another adult will be.
7. Be a nervous parent – or just shop like one. Toys with long strings may look cute and harmless for infants and very young children, but the cords could wrap around their necks and choke them. Projectile toys that fly or shoot are popular among young boys, who like to aim them at one another – a recipe for eye damage. While it’s not fun, picture the worst-case scenario before buying toys, and decide if it’s worth the risk.
For more information on toy safety and the latest product recalls in any category, you can visit http://www.cpsc.gov.