Matthew A Murdoch, MD

December 5th, 2014

As you shop the toy aisles this season, it is important to keep safety in mind. Toy-related injuries are more common than you might think. The latest research by Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital reveals “that every 3 minutes in the US, a child is treated in an emergency department for an injury received playing with a toy – and these numbers are on the rise.”

Here in southeast Idaho, we have seen an increase in the number of toy-related injuries. Although, when discussing toys and injuries, there need to be a distinction made between the toy – itself and the type of activity the child is involved with when using that toy. This is why we call them ‘toy-related’ injuries. Scooters and other foot-powered riding toys are fun! However, when a child falls from a scooter, rides in an area where collisions may occur, doesn’t wear a helmet or protective gear and/or rides on uneven surfaces, the child is at an increased risk for injury. We also see many injuries from unsupervised children on trampolines.

The most common injuries, nearly half, are to the face and head. The second sites for injury are the hands and arms followed closely by injuries to the legs. Common injuries include cuts, bruises, scrapes, sprains and fractures.

Children of different ages face different hazards from toys. For children under five and especially under three, there is increased risk for choking and asphyxiation from objects like balloons, stuffed animals, or small plastic toy pieces. While younger children are less likely to use scooters, other riding toys like tricycles and toy vehicles may increase a toddler’s risk for injury.

The keys to safe play are supervision, age-appropriate toy choices, and environment. There is no greater safety measure than a parent or caretaker actively involved in watching the child and directing appropriate activities; supervision of the child with a toy may be more important than what toy the child is actually using. Many accidents, classified as ‘toy-related,’ happen when a child gets distracted. For example, a child playing with a ball may inadvertently run into the street. I strongly encourage parents to play with their child and use these moments for interaction, learning and laughter.

Caregivers can dramatically reduce the risk of injury by picking toys that match a child’s interests, coordination, and ability. It is easy to want to ‘move a child up’ and introduce toys or activities before the child is developmentally ready. Additionally, a safe and secure area for play is essential. This means not allowing children to play in the street, parking lots, or overcrowded rooms.

Holidays are a wonderful time filled with new toys and activities; it is also a season of excitement, distractions and more people. Older children may not realize younger ones are not able to do what they can do. Commonly, over the holidays, children are placed in new environments where hazards have not been identified. Again, careful, thoughtful supervision is the key.

We at Pocatello Children’s Clinic are happy to partner with parents to help their child through the many physical, social and emotional developments. Our highly trained physicians are available if your child needs medical attention. From all of us at Pocatello Children’s Clinic, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season.

To reach Pocatello Children and Adolescent Clinic call 208-232-1443.

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