CHILDREN’S toys must be carefully selected, writes MARY CHEN, inappropriate toys can be lethal.
As the mother of two young children, paediatrician Dr Shyam Puthucheary is very careful about the toys she buys for her children. Besides looking at the fun, function and educational values of each toy, Dr Shyam makes sure the toys she chooses are safe.
She says: “I buy toys that are hardy and appropriate for their age and abilities. And I always look for the safety label that indicates the toy is non-toxic and non-flammable.”
When it comes to toys and safety, the most common dangers are choking, strangulation and injuries from sharp objects, observes Dr Shyam.
She advises parents to use the minimum age recommendation on the toy package as a guide only, as even children in the right age group may have different capabilities.
TO minimise the risk of choking, ensure that the toy’s eyes, fur, buttons, body paint and other parts do not come off easily, as young children like to pull off bits and pieces and put them in their mouth.
Dr Shyam says: “If a toy can break, or if bits of it come off easily, your child can choke on these.”
Remove and discard all packaging from a toy before giving it to your child. Children can choke on or be suffocated by plastic packaging left lying around.
Young children can also choke on food (such as sweets) or small items found in the home (such as coins, buttons, erasers, jewellery, deflated balloons).
Toys for older children are not always safe for younger ones so ensure that older children don’t play with toys, such as small balls or marbles, around younger siblings.
Dr Shyam says that while it is common practice for us to pass down toys from siblings or cousins, there are two important things parents should ensure before handing down toys.
They should check that there are no broken bits and the toy is appropriate for the child.
In fact, Dr Shyam advises parents to make a habit of checking and sorting their children’s toys regularly and either make repairs immediately or throw away damaged or broken ones.
NEVER give toys with strings, straps or cords of any length that can go round their neck to young children. Strangulation deaths have been recorded from necklaces, toy guitar straps, cords or ribbons being wrapped around the neck of children under three.
Remove all dangling toys from the crib or playpen when your child is starting to push up on hands and knees, usually about five months old. Do not merely untie one end and allow the toy to dangle, as your child would be attracted to it and in reaching up for it may become entangled resulting in injury or death.
TOYS TO AVOID
* Toys with sharp points or rough edges.
* Toys with strings longer than 30cm.
* Toys with small, removable parts measuring less than five centimetres.
* Toys with long handles that can be inserted into the mouth or poked in an eye.
* Toys made of materials that can break or tear easily.
* Toys with fluffy and longish hair or fur that may trigger an allergic reaction.
* Toys with rotating blades or motors.
ALWAYS ensure that children are properly supervised when using electrical toys and other electrically operated products. Possible dangers include electric shock and burns, especially if the product has a heating element.
Make sure that batteries in toys are properly installed and do not allow a child to sleep with a battery-operated toy.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CHILD IS CHOKING
WHEN something blocks your child’s throat, he will cough, gasp or gag.
If your baby or very young child cannot make sounds, stops breathing or turns blue, act quickly as he may have an obstructed airway.
For a small child:
* Place your child over your thigh, head down and slap between the shoulder blades.
* If back blows fail, use abdominal thrusts only if you have been trained to do so on a child.
* If not, begin CPR.
For a baby:
* Lay the baby on an incline (eg on your forearm), with the head down
* Slap between the shoulder blades, using less force than for a child. Repeat until item is dislodged.
* If baby loses consciousness, begin CPR.
* DO NOT use abdominal thrusts.
CARDIOPULMONARY RESUSCITATION (CPR)
CPR can save a child’s life if his heart stops beating or he has stopped breathing for any reason like drowning, poisoning, suffocation, choking. It is most successful if given immediately after the heart or breathing stops.
DANGER SIGNS THAT MAY ALERT YOU THAT CPR MIGHT BE NEEDED:
* Unresponsiveness, with no evidence of effective breathing.
* Extreme difficulty in breathing.
* Blue lips or skin.
* Severe wheezing.
* Drooling, or difficulty in swallowing with trouble breathing.
* Extreme paleness.
To determine the child’s response, tap his shoulders and call his name. If he responds, opens his eyes, wakes up or cries, let him rest.
If there is no response:
* Call for help.
* Lie him down on his back and tilt his head back and lift his chin.
* Watch, listen and feel the nose or mouth for breathing. If he is breathing, lie him on his side and wait for medical help to arrive.
* If he is not breathing, gently blow two breaths into his mouth and nose.
* Feel for a pulse at the right or left side of the neck.
* If there is a pulse, continue giving breaths until medical help arrives.
* If there is no pulse, start chest compression at the rate of 100 per minute and give one breath for every five compressions. Repeat for 20 cycles.
* Check for a pulse every few minutes. Continue until medical help arrives.
Dr Shyam recommends that all parents and childcare providers learn to apply CPR to be prepared for any such emergencies.
Such courses are usually available at local hospitals or organisations such as St John’s Ambulance and the Malaysian Red Crescent Society
SUM/ Mary Chen