December 11, 2002
Supervision, following manufacturer's guidelines key to keeping children safe this holiday season
By Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Every year children die in accidents linked to toys and thousands more are treated in emergency rooms for toy-related injuries.
Dr. Rahul Vohra, medical director at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson, encourages families to buy safe, age appropriate toys and to always remember to buy protective gear for all children who receive scooters, bicycles, skateboards and roller blades as gifts.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported a total of 10 deaths in 1998-1999 in accidents related to toys, the latest figures available. A total of 146,867 people were treated in the emergency room for injuries related to toys from Oct. 1, 2000 to Sept. 30, 2001. More than 68,000 of them were children under five. While the number of deaths and serious injuries is small compared to the billions of toys sold each year, safety experts say even one death is one too many.
“Last year more than 58,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated for injuries sustained in bicycle accidents and 63,000 were treated for injuries while skateboarding. Many of these injuries could have been prevented with the use of protective gear, including helmets. Statistics tell us children in the 11 to 14 year range are the least likely to wear a helmet,” said Dr. Vohra, a board-certified physiatrist (specialist in physical medicine). “Christmas is an exciting time for children, but parents must take precautions to make sure it is also a safe time.”
That includes close supervision and careful consideration when purchasing toys, said Lisa Uzzle Gates, director of Think First, Methodist Rehab’s statewide safety and injury prevention program. “Parents should always read labels carefully and pay close attention to the recommended age level. Toys too advanced for a child may be potentially dangerous,” she said.
Dr. Vohra’s tips for a safe holiday season are to:
- Avoid giving toys with small parts to infants and toddlers that may cause them to choke.
- Include a helmet and other protective gear when giving a gift on wheels. For In-line skates, bikes, scooters, roller skates or skateboards, a helmet is a necessity, not an accessory.
- Give reflective clothing, stickers or bike reflectors.
- Give a horn or bell as a stocking stuffer. A horn or bell is essential for bicyclists to warn motorists and pedestrians of their presence.
- Avoid toys that have sharp edges and avoid electric toys with heating elements for children under eight years old.
- Immediately discard plastic wrappings on toys, which can cause suffocation.
The Think First program is designed to educate the public on ways to prevent spinal cord, brain and other traumatic injuries by focusing on bicycle, automobile, firearm, boat, swimming and diving safety.
Methodist Rehab’s injury prevention mascot, Sammy Safety, joins with Think First speakers who volunteer their time to encourage others to wear seat belts, helmets and protective gear when riding bikes, scooters and skateboards or playing sports, and to think about what they’re doing before they get into any potentially dangerous situation. The program has been presented to about 75 schools, more than 13,000 students, since its beginning in 2001.
“The programs with Sammy Safety are a fun way to deliver a serious message about protecting the brain and spinal cord. We try to deliver the message in a way the kids will understand and remember,” Gates said.
For more information:
Experts: Consider toy safety when giving | The Clarion-Ledger