Avoid Christmas and Other Holiday Horrors

The shopping is done, the tree is trimmed and the party is winding down. Nothing at this point could spoil the holidays quite like a panicky trip to the emergency room with a sick or injured child.

Given the little ones’ knack for embracing danger, parents must shift their everyday attentiveness into overdrive during the holiday season. Hypervigilance is necessary to keep button batteries out of noses, small magnets out of stomachs and tiny toy parts out of mouths, said Jahn Avarello, MD, chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Cohen Children’s Medical Center.

“Kids will innately do the things we most don’t want them to do,” Dr. Avarello said, “such as put things in their mouths, in their noses and in their ears.”

The most important measure to keeping children safe over the holidays is for parents to choose toys and games suitable to their child’s age. Not abiding by the age warning label on a toy package often poses a safety risk.

“People need to make sure they keep the toys specific to the age groups they are shopping for,” Dr. Avarello said. “Too often, adults buy toys that are outside the child’s age range. Because the child isn’t developmentally ready, it can be a very unsafe situation.”

Chemistry sets and toys that require being plugged into an electrical outlet pose a danger to small children and toddlers, Avarello noted.

In recent years, the number of child injuries related to button batteries has skyrocketed, with more than 3,500 incidents of button battery ingestion reported to U.S. poison control centers each year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Most involve kids under 6.

Button batteries – the kind found in remote controls, cell phones, cameras, watches and small electronic toys – can cause permanent injury when they are swallowed or placed in the nose or ears.

“Button batteries are extremely dangerous. They can get stuck in a child’s nose, throat or ears,” Dr. Avarello said. “If the battery gets lodged between two wet surfaces, it can cause electrolysis and erode away at the tissue.

“With younger and younger kids using electronic gadgets, the incidence of button battery ingestion has increased dramatically,” he added.

Small high-powered magnets also present a safety risk to children, Dr. Avarello said. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports an increasing number of incidents involving kids swallowing magnets.

“When two or more of these magnets are swallowed, they can attract each other internally as they go through the digestive system,” Dr. Avarello said. “The magnets can wreak havoc on the child’s intestines.”

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