December Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley our local area public health nurse… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

The holidays have arrived and many people are making purchases for the special children in their families. That is why December has been designated Safe Toys and Gifts Month. In 2005, more than 200,000 toy related injuries were reported. About 8,000 of these injuries were eye injuries. Always consider the safety and age range of toys purchased. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission closely monitors and regulates toys. But it is up to all of us to choose toys that are safe for the age of the child and to choose toys that are most appropriate for their individual skills and abilities.

Avoid toys with small parts and toys that could shatter into small pieces if broken. These can be choking hazards. If a toy or a toy part can fit into a paper towel or toilet roll holder, it is too small and can potentially be a choking hazard. Avoid toys with sharp edges and points, guns and other toys that shoot flying objects and make loud noises, toys with ropes or cords, and toys that have heating elements. Never buy a toy that could be a fire hazard. All crayons, markers, and art supplies should be labeled nontoxic. Stuffed toys should be labeled washable. Look for a label marked with ASTM. These toys have met the American Society for Testing and Materials standards. No one wants to spend their entire holiday trying to figure out how a toy goes together! Make sure all instructions are easily understood. If you are going to give a sports item as a gift, consider providing safety equipment as well.

Toys imported from other countries and older toys may have high levels of lead in the paint or in the plastic. Children naturally put all objects into their mouths. They are easily exposed to lead paint and dust. Even small amounts of lead can be harmful to a child. Educate yourself about lead exposure from toys. Check to see which toys have been recalled before making a purchase. Be aware that older toys may be sentimental to us but can contain lead paint. And encourage frequent hand washing before, during, and after play. For more information about toys and childhood lead exposure, go to www.cdc.gov.

After a toy is purchased, inspect it frequently to make sure nothing is broken or loose. Make needed repairs or throw broken toys away. The MOST important thing a parent or caregiver can do is to supervise children while they play.

For more information on toy recalls, go to www.cpsc.gov. For more information about toy safety, visit www.safekids.org or www.preventblindness.org.

And to all, have a Happy and Safe Holiday and New Year!