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Toy Safety Tips for Parents

Tuesday, Dec 09, 2014

'Tis the season for toy shopping. When you shop, stop and think about the safety of toys first to ensure fun later.

Every year, thousands of children across the country go to the ER for treatment of injuries caused by toys. Robert Linkeheimer, DO, FACOEP, medical director of the Doylestown Hospital Emergency Department, shares the following tips for toy safety.

Avoid small parts for small children.

Young children are just as likely to taste a toy as play with it. Small balls and toy parts can cause choking.

"If the child is under three, there is a good chance he or she is going to stick something in their mouth and swallow it," says Dr. Linkenheimer.

Anything that gets caught in the airway is a big problem and requires medical attention. Chronic coughing, pneumonia and gasping for air are all symptoms that something is stuck where it's not supposed to be.

Children occasionally swallow coins as well as toy parts. Often these coins travel through the digestive system and reappear in the child's poop. "Anything the size of a quarter or smaller should pass through the child's system," advises Dr. Linkenheimer.

Kids also tend to stick stuff in their ears. This could become a problem if the object punctures the eardrum. If the object doesn't come out on its own, seek medical attention.

Be wary of button batteries.

Pay special attention to electronic toys with button batteries.

"They're a problem," Dr. Linkenheimer says. "If they child swallows the battery, it can get lodged in the child's esophagus and eventually burn through the esophagus."

If swallowed, these small batteries need to be retrieved by a medical professional.

Make sure toys are age appropriate.

Keep toys for older children away from curious younger siblings. Besides having small parts, some of these toys are just not meant for young children. For example, a scooter and other riding toys could be dangerous for a toddler to try.

A helmet and safety pads are recommended at all times, even for the older set. It's a good idea that protective gear be part of a gift of sports equipment (face guard with new batting helmet, eye goggles with basketball, etc.).

Also, be careful with toys containing magnets. Building and play sets with small magnets pose a choking threat to young children, and should be kept away from them.

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