MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (11/30/2021) — December is National Safe Toys and Gifts Month, which encourages family and friends to evaluate the gifts they give to children this holiday season.

University of Minnesota Medical School expert Viviane Leuche discusses how to check if a gift is safe and what to do if it is not.

90 seconds — What should family and friends look for to identify if a toy or gift is unsafe for a child?
Dr. LeucheWhen friends or family members are looking for a toy, I recommend checking for several things. First, I would recommend that they check that the toy is age appropriate. The toy should say if it is appropriate for a 3-year-old or 8-year-old and should also be compliant with consumer toy safety.

The second thing I recommend checking for is whether the toy has any small or detachable parts — these would be choking hazards. Particularly if there are batteries or magnets — they are highly concerning as they are high risk as a choking hazard, aspirations, ingestion or other complications should they be aspirated or ingested.  

The third thing I recommend checking for is whether the toy has a hazardous part or made of hazardous material. For example, if it is an object for a drawing and if there are parts — if the child potentially licked, ingested or put in their mouth — that could be hazardous.   

67 seconds — What should parents do if their child is injured by a toy projectile, choking on a small part, or consumes lead paint?
Dr. Leuche: First, I would recommend if your child has been severely injured or needs immediate attention to call 911 to get the help you need right away. For projectile injuries, those typically — if there is significant bodily harm, a deep laceration or a head injury — should be seen in the emergency department.  

For choking injuries, if the child is having significant breathing difficulty, I would recommend calling 911. If you are CPR-trained or know how to perform the heimlich maneuver, that would be appropriate to do. Otherwise, call 911 to get immediate attention.

For lead ingestion, contact your local poison control center or regular doctor. If it is an instance where a significant amount has been ingested, your child should be seen in the emergency department.   

39 seconds  — Are there other considerations gifters should be aware of during the holidays?
Dr. Leuche: Definitely consider toys that have easily detachable or loose parts, as those are high risk for choking. Particularly if they are buttons, batteries or magnets. If they are aspirated or ingested, they can cause a lot of problems, such as airway obstruction and other complications if ingested.  

If a child has been offered or gifted a toy that moves fast, such as a hoverboard or bike, be sure that they are given protective equipment (e.g., helmet) to protect against head injuries. 

Viviane Leuche, MD, is a pediatric emergency medicine physician with the University of Minnesota Medical School and M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital. Her expertise is in emergency medicine and pediatric global health.

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