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Before you buy: Toy safety guidelines from the Virginia Poison Center

November 08, 2019

Did you know that the Virginia Poison Center gets many calls related to toys this time of year? Poisonings happen in a matter of seconds and, between lots of new toys and the hectic schedules pulling parents’ attention in many directions, the holidays are a prime time.

Our poison experts urge parents to take extra precautions when buying and allowing children to play with toys during this busy holiday season and all year through.

Electronic toys with button batteries

From singing cards to novelty toys and interactive games, button batteries are everywhere. The problem is that in as little as two hours, a button battery can cause significant damage to a child’s esophagus if lodged in the throat. Parents and caregivers should make sure these batteries are properly secured and exercise supervision during play time. It’s best not to let small children play with electronic toys that require button batteries.

Magnetic toys

Magnets attract one another and will cause damage inside the body when trying to attach. Families with small children (and pets) should be aware of the dangers and buy toys that do not contain magnets. Remember to properly store magnetic gadgets or desk toys you may have for yourself as well.

Toys with lead

Old toys, ornaments, toys imported from other countries and even children’s jewelry may contain lead. These toys are no longer allowed to be produced in the United States, but many toys sold here are made in foreign countries, which do not have the same safety restrictions for children’s products. Since no amount of lead is safe, it’s best to make sure your children’s toys were made in the U.S. even if that means they’re a bit more expensive. If you’re looking to score a deal, try buying U.S. made toys on bargain or sale days.

Science and art supplies with toxic chemicals

Science supplies are mixtures of chemicals which should be handled correctly. Remind children to only use products as directed. It’s important to read and keep the ingredient list for all supplies or science kits in the case of an accidental poisoning. This will help the poison center nurse when trying to figure out the exact toxin that’s making your child sick and how to help. Even better, look for products have a seal that says “AP”. This seal by The Art and Creative Materials Institute ensures they are non-toxic.

Small toys or toy parts

Before buying a toy, check to make sure it does not have any small parts that can pose a choking hazard. Remember that kids will share toys with their siblings and friends, so small children often end up playing with toys that are not age-appropriate. Supervision is essential during play time, especially when older kids will have their toys out too. We also recommend regularly checking to see if any of your children’s toys have been recalled. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission maintains an up-to-date list of recalls.

Medication reminder

Though not toy-related, the holidays are time when family members and friends visit, bringing their medications and other possible poisoning hazards with them. They may not be accustomed to storing things up high and away from children. Remind them of this important step and keep an extra eye on curious little ones.

Keep the Poison Helpline number handy in case of an exposure to something toxic. By calling right away, rather than waiting for symptoms to develop, you can save a life.

The Helpline number is 1-800-222-1222.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

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