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Tales from the Safety Zone
The Child Safety Protection Act of 1994 made an important advance in protecting children from choking on toys. Under this law, warning labels must appear on packaging for small balls, balloons, and marbles as well as games or toys with small parts that are intended for use by children ages 3 to 6. Small toys that may pose a choking, aspiration, or ingestion hazard are banned if they are for use by children younger than age 3. The Consumer Product Safety Commission enforces the regulations and also works with toy manufacturers to make toys safe.
Toys Can Choke Kids, Too
Kids can also choke on small toys such as balls, marbles, and game pieces. Give your older kids a safe storage area for their toys, and make sure they keep their belongings stowed away from younger siblings.
Always follow the recommended age on a toy label. These ages do not reflect whether a child is developmentally advanced enough to use it but whether it poses a safety hazard to younger children.
Sometimes a toy or item of baby equipment that seems safe when it's first manufactured is later found to pose a choking hazard. In those cases, the CPSC notifies consumers and the media about recalls. You can get these notices automatically by signing up on the agency's Web site at www.cpsc.org. To report products that pose a choking hazard, call CPSC's hotline at 800-638-2772.
Don't give kids under age 3 dolls or stuffed toys with eyes, noses, or ribbons that might come off. Also, check toys regularly to make sure they are still in good condition. Sometimes parts break off. Repair or discard any toys that are broken.
Fast-food chains displayed their marketing genius by creating meals especially for children. Kids love getting a toy with their food, but be sure to tell the clerk when you order if your child is younger than 3. If that week's toy isn't suitable for younger children, the chains typically stock substitutes that are.
Wraps and Labels
Be sure to discard the packaging, including gift wrap, or ribbons—especially plastic wrap—on a new toy you give your child. Plastic labels or decals on toys and juvenile products are a choking hazard, too. Peel them off. Don't remove permanent paper warning labels, however.
Rattles and Teethers
In 1978, the U.S. government issued rules that require rattles to be large enough so that they can't lodge in a baby's throat. They also have to be sturdily made so they won't break into pieces that can be inhaled or swallowed. Sometimes these items are recalled because they pose a hazard, but not always. Don't take chances: Inspect them regularly.
Take rattles, teethers, and squeeze toys out of the crib or playpen when your baby is sleeping, and don't buy rattles or squeeze toys with ball-shaped ends.
For $1 or $2, you can buy a small parts tester at a juvenile products store. If an object is small enough to fit through the tube, it's too small for children under age 3, according to the federal standard: 11/4 inches by 11/4 inches by 21/4 inches.
If your child puts a small object in her mouth and it disappears, call your pediatrician. The item could be lodged in the esophagus or it could have gone into the digestive tract.
Most foreign bodies that are swallowed will pass through the digestive tract without doing damage, so your doctor may suggest letting nature take its course. In some cases, however, your doctor may recommend an X-ray to determine exactly where the object has gone, and the foreign body may have to be removed. Often this can be done with an endoscope that can be passed down the esophagus. Surgery is necessary only in rare cases when the object is stuck firmly or is large or sharp.
More on: Childhood Safety
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Child Safety © 2000 by Miriam Bacher Settle, Ph.D., and Susan Crites Price. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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