Avoiding Trauma by Toys: Tips for holiday toy-buying

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iStock-155314567-1Every parent looks forward to seeing their child’s face light up at the sight of a new toy during the holidays. But as we begin to shop for our little ones, emergency room physicians say safety should be at the top of our shopping list.

To help parents make smart choices, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recently released a report offering guidance about toys with potentially hazardous features.

In 2015, more than 250,000 children were treated in emergency departments across the U.S. for toy-related injuries. Boys encountered more than half of those injuries.

Eric Higginbotham, MD, leads the emergency department at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, part of Ascension, the nation’s largest nonprofit health system and the world’s largest Catholic health system.

He says when accidents do happen, whether your child swallowed a battery or suffered a hard fall, it’s important to seek medical care immediately. Go to a Pediatric Level I Trauma Center, equipped with pediatric specialists who are trained to work together and act quickly.

Dell Children’s is the only Pediatric Level I Trauma Center in Central Texas, offering the highest level of trauma care for kids.

“I’m the last person you want to see on Christmas morning,” Higginbotham said. “But unfortunately year after year, toy-related injuries are still a thing, especially around the holidays.”

According to the report:

  • Non-motorized scooters were listed as the most dangerous toy, blamed for about 45 percent of toy-related deaths.
  • Bumps, bruises and cuts were the most common injuries.
  • Heads and faces were the body parts most affected by these injuries.

Higginbotham points out parents should not only pay attention when they’re shopping, but they should also take a close look at toys their children receive as gifts from friends and relatives.

“My own kids never see up to half the toys they’re gifted by others,” he said. “If I so much as question the toy’s safety, I store it until they’re older or I just toss it.”

Other toy features to watch out for:

  • Balloons and balloon strings (choking, strangulation)
  • Stuffed toys, dolls, doll accessories, toy figurines (suffocating)
  • Water guns (drowning)
  • Tricycles (accidents involving motor-vehicles)

Shopping? Consider these tips:

  • Study the label: It’s important to know how to properly use the toy. Read warning labels and instruction manuals to learn about proper play, and then give your child pointers on safe use.
  • Shop for age-appropriate toys:  Check the packaging for age limitations.
  • Go big: To prevent choking, make sure the toys are too large to fit inside your child’s mouth.
  • Buy safety gear: For bikes, skateboards and similar toys, make sure your child is properly fitted with a helmet and pads.
  • Check the sound levels: Avoid any toys that are too loud to prevent hearing damage.
  • Beware of battery operated toys: Make sure your little one can’t remove the battery. “Button-style” batteries can cause potentially fatal internal burning when swallowed.
  • Look for non-toxic toys: Make sure toys don’t contain toxic materials that could be poisonous.
  • No matter what, supervise your child: Any toy can be dangerous without parental supervision.

Learn more about pediatric emergency and trauma care at Dell Children’s.