Toys that Make Physicians Nervous

The countdown is on to find those remaining items on your loved ones’ wish lists. However, as you shop for children, physicians affiliated with Memorial Hermann Health System also hope you will keep safety in mind. Here are the top five types of toys that make physicians nervous.

Battery-powered toys

The biggest risk from battery-operated toys is that small batteries can be a choking hazard for young children. Many of these toys come with the batteries packaged separately in the box. Parental supervision is required to make sure a young child doesn’t try to place the batteries in his or her mouth. Toys that spark can also result in burns.

Additionally, drones are posing a new risk for both children and those around them.

“Often kids who can’t fly drones are playing with them, which can be dangerous for bystanders,” said Robert Lapus, M.D., a pediatric emergency physician affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and a faculty member of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.  “Also, even though the rotors often have bumpers to protect the blades from breaking in a collision, kids, especially ones with small hands, can still get their fingers injured.”

Toys with small parts

“Toys with small parts or other household items such as beads or buttons can become choking hazards in young children. We frequently see objects inserted up the nose, into the ear or into the mouth, prompting a visit to the emergency room for assistance with removal. Parents should be mindful to keep such objects or toys with small parts not approved for young children out of reach,” says Richard Owens, M.D., an emergency medicine physician affiliated with Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center in Greater Heights.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission requires toys intended for children younger than 12 be tested by a third-party laboratory and contain a label if they pose a potential choking hazard. That includes toys that may have detachable parts that can also be choking hazards.

Wheeled toys

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, more children are seen in emergency rooms for injuries related to riding toys than any other toy. Terrence Anderson, M.D., pediatric orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital, has seen a number of injuries as a result of improper use of wheeled toys.

“Children can be put in danger when using wheeled toys such as bicycles and skateboards that can ultimately result in broken bones, which we see often,” said Dr. Anderson.  He recommends children wear safety gear such as helmets and wrist guards, and encourages parents to properly maintain and check wheeled toys on a regular basis.

Toy weapons

“Just because the item is made out of plastic or foam material doesn’t mean that it can’t hurt someone if used with enough force. Foam darts can still cause injury if they were to hit someone in the eye or other sensitive parts of the body. Make sure your child is mature enough to play with the toy responsibly, and set rules for what is and is not allowed,” says Marco Garza, M.D., an emergency physician and medical director of the Emergency Center at Memorial Hermann Cypress Hospital.

Dr. Garza says parents should carefully monitor children playing with any weapon-like toy, including plastic swords, bow and arrow sets, or toy nunchucks. He also encourages parents to have conversations with their children about appropriate behavior when playing with the toys and to never aim for another person or animal when playing with a toy that can fire or launch another object.

Toys that are not Age-appropriate

“Perhaps the most helpful guideline is adhering to the label found on a toy,” says Natasha Bhagwandin, M.D., a pediatrician with Memorial Hermann Medical Group Pediatrics Atascocita. “These age limits are set by the government, keeping in mind toy length, various parts of the toys and general safety considerations.”

Dr. Bhagwandin reminds parents to be mindful that what may be appropriate for one child may not be appropriate for all the children in the home.

“It is crucial that toys for older children are stored outside the reach of younger children, so utilize high shelves and locked cabinets as much as possible,” encourages Dr. Bhagwandin.

Should an emergency arise, Memorial Hermann offers 19 emergency centers throughout the Greater Houston area, prepared to treat everything from serious burns to chest pains. For urgent but not emergent needs, physicians at Memorial Hermann Urgent Care welcome walk-in patients from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

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Tashika Varma