Avoid toy-related injuries this holiday

By Zacharias Chasin, MD  |  11/28/2016

Toys make for a merrier Christmas and Hanukkah. Yet, an estimated 251,800 children were treated in U.S. emergency departments for toy-related injuries in 2014, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Last holiday season, it was the gravity defying hoverboards that kept doctors busy treating broken bones, sprains and concussions.

So, how can we protect our children from these injuries and make sure we give them safe gifts this and every holiday? Here are some tips:

  • Be vigilant with riding toys. These are the most notorious when it comes to toy-related injuries and deaths. If you plan on purchasing a ride-on car (like a Power Wheel) or foot-powered scooter, don't let your child play near streets or sidewalks. That puts them at risk of being hit by a motor vehicle. Also, keep them away from pools and stairs. Helmets save lives. Get them one. Make sure it fits well and is worn properly.
  • Read warnings and instructions. Look for small parts warnings or allergy disclaimers. Avoid toys with cords that can cause strangulation or deflated balloons (sometimes used in board games), which are choking hazards. Supervise your children and show them how to properly use their new toys.
  • Notice small parts. Children explore their surroundings by putting things into their mouths. This can lead to choking. Become familiar with the typical dimensions of an official small part or toy ball. Small balls that fit in a toilet paper roll pose a potential choke hazard for children under age four. A small part is less than 1.25 inches across and up to 2.25 inches long. Not all toys are properly labeled with warnings about small parts, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group.
  • Inspect batteries closely. Duct tape any battery compartment closed that isn't childproof. The National Capital Poison Center warns that button batteries can be fatal if swallowed. Last year, more than 1,900 children swallowed these tiny round batteries, which can burn the esophagus and damage the aorta.
  • Protect your child's vision. Eye injuries are on the rise, stemming from toys that use projectiles. If your child must have the latest foam blaster, consider gifting a superhero mask that covers the eyes. If you plan on purchasing a drone, consider one with safety mechanisms and keep them away from young children.

Dr. Zacharias Chasin is a family medicine physician with Health Quest Medical Practice's primary care office in Rhinebeck. He treats adults and children ages 5 and older. Reach the office at 845-876-4432.