December 1, 2003
Methodist Rehab warns holiday gift-givers to 'think first' before shopping this season
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—If your children have the season’s hottest toys on their gift lists, you’re probably planning a mad dash to the mall.
But before rushing out to buy Hokey Pokey Elmo, GO BOTS or Barbie, take some time to ensure that the requested items are safe and suitable for the recipients, says Lauren Fairburn, coordinator of Think First, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s statewide injury prevention program,
“The hottest toys change each season and the latest trends in gift-giving aren’t always the safest,” Fairburn said. “Pay attention to age recommendations such as ‘not recommended for children under three’ and use that as a guide. Also consider whether the toy is suitable for the abilities, skills and interest level of the child. Toys too advanced for a child may be potentially dangerous.”
Look for stuffed toys and dolls that are flame resistant, washable and hygienic, she says. And if you plan to purchase in-line skates, scooters, bicycles or skateboards, provide the gift recipient a helmet, as well.
“Wearing bike helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent,” Fairburn said.
Also be sure to include protective eye gear and pads with sporting equipment, cautions Fairburn. “There are approximately 40,000 sports-related eye injuries every year and 90 percent could have been prevented with protective gear.”
Fairburn recommends that consumers be on the lookout for toy and product recalls, and not assume the manufacturer will notify them of problems.
She said a good source of information is a new Web site, www.recalls.gov, that provides the latest recalls from federal agencies including the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
After your shopping list has been checked twice, Fairburn recommends inspecting all previously purchased items, baby cribs and other equipment for potential safety hazards and recalls.
Safe tips this Christmas include:
- 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 8 years old.
- Immediately discard plastic wrappings on toys, which can cause suffocation.
- Make sure plush toys have tightly secured eyes, noses, and other parts.