Watch for hidden danger in the holiday toy pile

November 29, 2021 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

This is the season that kids look forward to all year. And who wouldn’t, with a slew of new toys on the way?

Amidst all the excitement and joy of new gifts, it’s crucial to keep your children’s safety in mind.

One gift near the top of every doctor’s wish list is an injury-free holiday season. It’s a gift that is not usually received. Between 2012 and 2018, U.S. children and teens sustained over 1 million toy-related injuries that were treated in emergency departments (EDs).

A 2020 report released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reveals there were nine deaths and more than 149,000 toy-related, ED-treated injuries to children ages 14 and younger. The majority of these injuries and deaths were associated with choking on small parts of toys.

Riding toys, specifically non-motorized scooters, are also commonly associated with injuries. In children ages 5-17, riding toys account for more than 40% of toy injuries.

Obviously, the holidays are better without a trip to the emergency room. How can we keep our kids safe this season?

To make this holiday an injury-free one, keep these tips in mind:

  • Read labels carefully. Toys have warning labels with information about how to safely use the toy and what ages are appropriate. 
  • Watch magnets. Magnetic toys must adhere to a strong safety standard that prevents swallowing. But high-powered magnet sets that have small magnets are dangerous for kids. Keep building and play sets with small magnets out of the reach of small children.

  • Beware of batteries. Button batteries and lithium coin batteries (small, shiny round batteries) can cause serious injury if stuck in a child's ear or nose or swallowed. Make sure that the battery compartments of all toys are secure and taped shut.
  • Toss old balloons. Children can choke or suffocate on deflated or broken balloons. Keep deflated balloons away from children younger than age 8. Discard torn balloons immediately.
  • Keep toys with small parts away from babies and toddlers. For children younger than age 3, avoid small balls and toys with small parts, which can cause choking. Also, stay away from toys with sharp edges away and toys with long strings, loose ribbons or cords that could get wrapped around a child's neck.

  • Avoid flying toys. These can injure eyes in particular. Arrows or darts should have rubber suction cups or other protective tips to prevent injury.
  • Don't skip the safety gear. Riding toys, skateboards and in-line skates go fast, and falls could be deadly. Kids should wear properly-sized helmets and safety gear at all times while riding.
  • Avoid noisy toys for toddlers. Young children often hold objects close to their face and ears, and some loud toys can cause hearing damage.

Once the gifts are open:

  • Check toys regularly for potential hazards. A damaged toy should be thrown away or repaired immediately.

  • Be vigilant. Keep toys that are okay for older children away from younger siblings. Watch your kids! Don’t let kids play with new toys alone.
  • Supervise battery charging. Chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to young children. Pay attention to instructions and warnings on battery chargers. Some chargers lack a mechanism to prevent overcharging.

Check out this Illinois Attorney General’s annual Holiday Safe Shopping Guide, which points out recalled toys and household items and kids’ products.

Learn more about our pediatric emergency care and check our ED wait times.

Learn more about children's services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Have a little one on the way? Our Family Birthing Centers provide expert care from the minute you decide to have a baby until well after your child is born.

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