Emphasize safety when buying gifts for children

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Toys will once again be high on kids’ wish lists this holiday season, when advertisements will highlight this year’s most coveted gifts. But just because a particular toy is this year’s must-have item does not mean it’s the safest gift for kids of all ages.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were an estimated 265,000 toy-related injuries treated at hospitals in the United States in 2012. Of those injuries, an estimated 72 percent happened to children younger than 15 years of age while 69 percent affected kids 12 years of age or younger.

In addition, an estimated 34 percent of those injuries happened to children younger than five years of age. Many toy-related deaths were the result of drowning and asphyxiation. No one wants to think about injuries or deaths involving kids, but holiday shoppers must keep safety in mind when purchasing children’s gifts to safeguard youngsters from injury.

Balloons

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The CPSC notes that balloons are the leading cause of suffocation death in children. Children may swallow broken or uninflated balloons, which can then stick to the throat and airway, making it impossible to breathe. Holiday shoppers should avoid giving balloons to children age eight or younger. In addition, dispose of balloons if or when they deflate.

Painted toys

Lead paints and toys containing lead are not legal in North America, but that doesn’t mean that imported toys are made in adherence to stringent safety guidelines. Before buying a toy, confirm that it is lead-free, as exposure to lead can cause serious neurological problems, especially in young children.

Button batteries

Button batteries, or the small-sized batteries found in some toys, watches and hearing aids, can be hazardous. Batteries can become stuck and cause chemical burns. Adults should always verify that the battery compartments on children’s toys are secured with screws. Other products that have remote controls may contain batteries that are not adequately secured. In addition to button batteries, AAA batteries, which are small, can be hazardous to kids.

Magnets

Small magnets can be swallowed and become lodged in the digestive system of a child. If two or more magnets or a magnet and metal component are swallowed, they can attract to one another through intestinal walls. This can cause blockages, perforations and infections. Avoid toys that use small magnets, and check the CPSC website to ensure that magnetic toys are not among recalled products.

Toy Safety Tips

* Read the packaging to ensure that toys are age-appropriate.

* Avoid projectile toys or those with sharp points.

* Store toys that belong to older children out of reach of younger kids.

* Don’t buy toys with removable parts that can be swallowed.

* Only buy toys made from nontoxic materials.

* Only buy fabric toys that are labeled as flame-resistant or flame-retardant.

* Only buy stuffed toys that are washable. ‘

* Graciously decline hand-me-down toys that may not meet current safety standards.

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