Holiday Toy Safety – From a Medical Perspective

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Right about now, Santa is checking his list twice, and people are busy buying toys and games for the little ones in their lives.  But as always, it's a good idea to make sure those gifts are as safe as they are fun.

"Christmas is definitely a time we're concerned about," said Carol Hanson, the pediatric trauma coordinator at Geisinger Medical Center near Danville.

She point out, this is when kids are getting new toys and games and trying them out for the first time, often with a younger child around, which is the first concern: choking.

"You really have to be careful with a toy that has small parts that could come off and become detached.  Children will tend to put it in their mouth," said Hanson.

The second concern would be anything projectile, such as foam or plastic arrows or pellet guns.  Hanson says those are examples of toys that aren't dangerous if used correctly and not aimed at people.  Kids have needed surgery to remove plastic pellets lodged in the skin.

The third is head injuries from not wearing a helmet on a new bike or scooter.

The fourth might be the most important to remember, according to Dr. Christopher Coppola, a pediatric surgeon at Geisinger.  He says to be careful of toys that have small magnets or button batteries, which can look like candy to a little one.

"A button battery is a major danger to a child.  In just 2 to 4 hours it can cause a hole in the gastrointestinal tract that will require emergency surgery," noted Dr. Coppola.

A good rule of thumb is the toilet paper roll rule.  If a toy can fit through the tube, it's not a good choice if there are young kids in the house.

Geisinger officials say they check two websites in particular for more information this time of year.  Once is the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  The other is an organization called