By Dallas Post Tribune Staff
DALLAS – The holiday season should be a happy time for children, but parents and caretakers need to ensure it’s also safe. While new toys can bring joy and smiles, they may also present potential safety hazards. December is Toy Safety Month, and injury prevention experts at Parkland Health & Hospital System are offering tips to help with holiday toy shopping.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 240,000 toy-related injuries were treated in emergency rooms in 2016, the last year data is available. Of those, 39 percent of the emergency department-treated injuries were classified as cuts and bruises and 45 percent of the injuries were to the head and face. CPSC received seven reports of toy-related deaths among children younger than 15. Non-motorized scooters were the toys associated with the most injuries in children younger than 15 years old, accounting for 23 percent of injuries treated in emergency rooms.
“The statistics can be alarming, but taking a few precautions while you shop can help prevent spending the holidays in the emergency room,” said Shelli Stephens-Stidham, Director of the Injury Prevention Center of Greater Dallas, housed at Parkland. “While consumer protection groups, retailers and toymakers work hard to ensure the safety of toys, it is equally important that parents and caregivers do the same.”
Parkland safety experts advise that adults selecting toys should remember the ABC’s of toy safety:
A: Avoid toys with small parts, as well as marbles and small balls, for children under age 3. “Children can choke on small parts contained in toys or games,” Stephens-Stidham said.
B: Battery-operated toys are much safer than those that must be plugged into an electrical outlet, but beware. “Button batteries and magnets can be potential threats if ingested,” said Lizbeth Petty, public health educator with the North Texas Poison Center located at Parkland. “Besides being stuck in the esophagus, batteries can release an electric current that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours,” she said. “To prevent injuries, always look at the battery compartment and make sure the batteries are tightly secured with screws.”
C: Check all labels. “Toys should be appropriate for the child’s age and abilities because toys that are too advanced may pose safety hazards,” Stephens-Stidham said. “Be sure to always follow the age guidelines and other safety information on packaging.”
Experts also offer the following tips:
- Avoid toys with sharp points and edges.
- Dispose of strings, ribbons and other potentially dangerous packaging. These items may pose a strangulation hazard for small children.
- Get safety gear. With scooters and other riding toys, be sure to include helmets. Helmets should be worn properly at all times, and they should be sized to fit.
- Know your seller. Purchase toys from retailers you know and trust.
- Read all instructions carefully before buying the toy.
- If you think a child may have swallowed a button battery, call your local poison center immediately.
Nationally, 55 poison centers provide service to all 50 states. Anyone who needs assistance anywhere in the country can dial the toll-free number 1-800-222-1222 and be connected to one of the centers.
“Having and sharing this information during the holidays can help save lives,” Stephens-Stidham said. Texas residents can visit www.poisoncontrol.org for more information about poisonings, including the hazards of button batteries. For more information about the Injury Prevention Center of Greater Dallas, please visit www.injurypreventioncenter.org. For more information on services at Parkland, please visit www.parklandhospital.com.
This article originally appeared in the Dallas Post Tribune.