Don’t 'toy' with the holidays: Officials urge proper gift-giving for children

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With Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind the nation, the holiday shopping season continues with events like Christmas and Hanukkah nearing at the end of December.

Parents, grandparents and others will be searching for the next great toy for the children in their lives. But officials, including in Arizona, are reminding everyone to make sure they are buying the right toy for the appropriate ages.

And at Banner Health, officials hope visits to the emergency department for toy-related injuries don't become part of people’s holiday tradition.

Lynn Lawrence, MD, emergency doctor at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, routinely sees more kids coming in after the holidays having injured themselves on the season’s newest toys.

In metro Phoenix, Banner Health offers pediatric emergency care at Cardon Children’s and at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale.

“In the Emergency department we often see issues with toys, especially when children are not given age-appropriate gifts,” Ms. Lawrence said.

The numbers across the United States back her up.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a report in October, titled “Toy-Related Deaths and Injuries”, indicating that over 226,000 hospital emergency room visits in the country were linked to children’s toys last year, with at least 17 toy-related deaths in 2018. That included all ages.

But of those, about 166,200 visits were children younger than 15. Children younger than 5 made up half of those visits and had the highest injuries per 100,000 people of that age group, the report found.

Among the 17 fatal incidents in 2018 that were described in the report, two girls — ages 3 and 6 years — choked on rubber balls and later died from their injuries. In the case of the 3-year-old, the ball was extremely slippery when it got wet and slid down the girl’s throat past her tonsils, blocking air intake. First responders dislodge the ball from her throat but reported difficulty in removing it because it was slippery. The girl suffered brain damage and died six days later.

For the 6-year-old, her mother said the girl had a history of Cornedia De Lange syndrome and had an attraction to rubber objects. The girl had similar incidents in the past, some leading to emergency room visits.

According to the report, boys usually account for more than half of the injuries.

Also, nonmotorized scooters continued to be the category of toys associated with the most injuries for children younger than 15 and children 12 or younger in 2018. However, the percentages of the associated toy-related injury estimates have decreased steadily over the last 5 years for those two age groups.

Lynn Lawrence offers these general guidelines for shoppers interested in making safe toy purchases this holiday season:

Check the parts: Toys can contain smaller parts or even parts that can become hot because of heating elements;

Check for quality: Avoid sharp corners, rough edges. Choose well-made items that will not break easily; and

The most important recommendation: Look on the box in which the toy came for the age recommendations and follow those suggestions. Give age-appropriate gifts.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office also recommends people to discard plastic wrappings on toys before they become deadly playthings; avoid choking hazards by not buying small toys or toys with small parts for children under 3, or any children who still put things in their mouth; buy helmets, knee pads, elbow pads or wrist guards for items like bicycles, scooters or skateboards; and avoid toys that contain lead or toxic chemicals.

People are also encouraged to stay informed of recalls. Visit www.recalls.gov or contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 1-800-638-2772 or email info@cpsc.gov. The CPSC has the authority to recall dangerous toys and products from the market. People who think a toy may be hazardous can contact the agency at the phone and email address provided.

With that said, Banner Urgent Care and Sonora Quest Laboratories are teaming up to donate and collect new toys for children at Diamond Children’s Medical Center in Tucson.

The toy drive runs through Friday, Dec. 13.

People can either drop off toys at one of five Banner Urgent Care Tucson locations or text Banner to 95495 to donate money for a new toy.

“The level of Tucson community spirit we’re seeing to help children in need during the holidays is amazing,” said Katrina Catto, CEO of Banner Urgent Care. “It’s really been heartwarming to see people who want to do something for kids.”

If you’re in metro Phoenix, donations made to Banner Urgent Cares will go to children hospitalized at Cardon Children’s in Mesa and Banner Thunderbird in Glendale.

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