Ochsner’s Brandon Weeks, MD, Gives Toy Safety Recommendations for the Holidays

Tis’ the season for giving, but for many children, what they receive during the holidays can be harmful. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 185,500 toy-related emergency room visits in 2015 in children under 15 years of age.

More than a dozen children died due to those injuries, mostly from asphyxia, which is a severe lack of oxygen to the body. They also found that riding toys such as scooters were associated with the majority of injuries and almost half of toy-related deaths.

Dr. Brandon Weeks, Primary Care Physician at Ochsner Medical Complex - Iberville, said, “Parents need to be on guard for potential toy hazards, especially around this time of year. It’s very easy to get caught up in holiday activities and not see a small child with something he shouldn’t have.”

He also suggested that people be conscious of safety while shopping for toys. “With so many new and exciting things on the market each holiday season, sometimes we forget to look at them with a critical eye for safety.”

Dr. Weeks recommended the following considerations for purchasing safe toys:

-Avoid toys that can potentially become hazards for young children.If a small toy or parts of toys that break off can fit entirely into a toilet paper tube, then it is a potential choking hazard. Make sure the toy is age-appropriate. For children younger than five, avoid balloons or toys that have string, ribbon or straps longer than seven inches that could cause strangulation. Keep magnetic toys and “button” batteries away from young children. The acid can cause fatal internal injuries. If a child swallows a battery, seek immediate medical attention.

-Provide appropriate safety equipment with a gift, such as helmets for bikes or pads for skateboards or skates. 

-Read the recommended age label on packaging, and, always open what is purchased and inspect the toy. This is extremely important if someone else gives your child a gift. Sometimes what we think we are buying is not exactly what’s in the box. Inspecting it is the best way to determine if the toy is safe for your child.

-Stay away from certain types of chemicals such as phthalates, lead, or heavy metals which can affect organs and system in the human body, especially the central nervous system. Opt for toys labeled "phthalate-free” or cloth or unpainted wooden toys instead. Read the labels of play cosmetics and avoid products with xylene, toluene or phthalates. To screen a piece of jewelry for lead, use a home lead tester available at hardware stores. (This is a screening method only, and should not be relied upon as a definitive test.)

-Be sure the toy is age and developmentally appropriate. Parents with multiple children of all ages should make sure toys for older children are not easily accessible to the younger children. There can be large age gaps in families, so what is bought for an older child can be extremely harmful to a younger sibling. Keeping an eye on the younger children and making sure toys are separated is the best way to keep everyone safe during the holiday.

-Keep in mind that screen time, outside of video chatting, is not recommended for children under two. For those over two years old, pediatricians recommend no more than an hour a day. Remember! This is a great time to ask friends and family to give "screen free" gifts.