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Montefiore in the News

November 21, 2013

As Black Friday approaches and kids start to add the latest and greatest toys to their holiday wish-list, Young-Jin Sue, M.D., attending pediatrician, Pediatric Emergency Department, The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM) shares advice for parents to consider before they head out to the shops this holiday season.

“Far and away the most prevalent risk toys pose to young children is choking,” said Dr. Sue. “Small toys and toy parts can easily be ingested, causing pain, discomfort and in some cases life-threatening obstruction. We want the holidays to be a time of joy and celebration, so we encourage parents to keep these tips in mind.”

• Choking: Children younger than age three are developmentally most at risk for choking. In general, toys small enough to hide inside a cardboard toilet paper roll may present the most risk. Try to avoid these items and stick to larger toys with few detachable parts. Buttons, pull-ties and snaps can all be detached and ingested by an energetic and determined child. Parents should take care to observe toy manufacturers’ warnings about choking and age appropriateness. 
• Wear and tear: When selecting toys, quality construction and durability should be taken into consideration. Child safety is a year-round concern, so toys should be periodically examined for wear and tear throughout the year. 
• Packaging: Kids so quickly unwrap gifts that the packaging is often forgotten about, but it too could be a hazard. Small clips and ties can cause choking and large plastic bags can result in asphyxia. Cords and straps that exceed 8 to 12 inches can be caught around the neck, resulting in strangulation; therefore all toy packaging should be promptly discarded.
• Batteries and magnets: If a child does ingest a toy, in addition to choking, it can result in poisoning. Some paints and glazes on toys have been found to contain lead and other harmful chemicals. Package labels should state safety testing standards, so it’s important to read the labels. Battery compartments should be difficult for a child to open, as ingested button batteries may leak toxic compounds and ingestion of small super-strong magnets may cause intestinal punctures. 
• Safety Equipment: For toys that are considered more dangerous, like those with electrical cords, sharp edges and toys that ignite, explode, shoot, or catapult, remember to insist on the use of safety equipment, like helmets, elbow and knee pads, safety eyeglasses and hearing protection. Also, toy firearms should always be brightly colored to avoid confusion with the real thing.

“Remember, common sense rules,” said Dr. Sue. “Parents should consider the age, ability, temperament and developmental level of the child recipient. It’s important to heed manufacturers’ warnings and instructions, provide age-appropriate supervision and consistently check for recalls of unsafe toys to ensure a happy child and a safe holiday season.”