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Kid's & Teen Health

Safety First for Your Grandchildren’s Holiday Gifts

The injury rate for children has increased nearly 40 percent from 1990 through 2011. Foot-powered scooters are a leading cause, according to a a first-of-its-kind study done by researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital I Columbus, Ohio.

Tis the season for toys. Children are writing lists full of them, and parents and grandparents are standing in lines (or tapping on computers) trying to find them. Playing with toys this season or any other is an important way for children to develop, learn, and explore. But anyone planning to buy new toys, or anyone with toys already at home, should know that many toys pose an injury risk to children.

The researchers found that an estimated 3,278,073 children were treated in United States emergency departments from 1990 through 2011 for a toy-related injury. In 2011, a child was treated every 3 minutes for such an injury. Slightly more than half of the injuries happened among children younger than 5 years of age.

The study, published online in December 2014 in “Clinical Pediatrics” and appearing in print in the February 2015 issue, also found that the rate of injury rose almost 40% during the 22-year period that researchers analyzed. Much of that increase was associated with foot-powered scooters.

A release from Nationwide Children’s Hospital quotes senior author Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the hospiral, as saying, “A child’s job is play, and toys are the tools. We want children to explore, challenge themselves, and develop while using those tools safely.”

Children of different ages face different hazards from toys, Dr. Smith said. Children younger than 3 years of age are at particular risk of choking on small toys and small parts of toys. During the study period, there were more than 109,000 cases of children younger than 5 swallowing or inhaling “foreign bodies,” the equivalent of almost 14 cases per day.

As children get older, injuries involving riding toys increase. Those toys — which include foot-powered scooters, wagons, and tricycles — were associated with 42% of injuries to children 5 to 17 years of age and 28% of injuries to children younger than 5. Injuries with ride-on toys were 3 times more likely to involve a broken bone or a dislocation than other toys. Falls (46%) and collisions (22%) were the most common ways that children of all ages were injured in association with toys of all categories.

Foot-powered scooters are of special concern. From 2000, after the scooters first became popular, through 2011, there were an estimated 580,037 injuries, or about 1 every 11 minutes. Much of the increase in the overall toy injury rate after 1999 is due to foot-powered scooters.