Toy-Related Injuries Spiked

One child with a toy related injury was treated every three minutes in US emergency departments

(RxWiki News) That long-awaited action figure or scooter under the Christmas tree might pose a risk of injury to your child.

A long-term study of US children found that injuries related to toys — such as choking or falls — increased significantly over the past two decades.

Foot-powered scooters led the pack in terms of injuries, according to the research findings. Younger children were more likely to be injured than older children, and injuries tended to increase during warmer months.

The authors of this study said health care workers should educate parents about the risks associated with toys. They also recommended that toy makers focus on safety during the design process.

Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, OH, led the research team.

"A child's job is play, and toys are the tools," Dr. Smith said in a press release. "We want children to explore, challenge themselves, and develop while using those tools safely. The frequency and increasing rate of injuries to children associated with toys, especially those associated with foot-powered scooters, is concerning. This underscores the need for increased efforts to prevent these injuries to children. Important opportunities exist for improvements in toy safety standards, product design, recall effectiveness, and consumer education."

Dr. Smith and team collected data on children treated in emergency rooms for toy-related injuries. They estimated that 3,278,073 children under the age of 18 were treated in ERs for a toy-related injury from 1990 through 2011.

By 2011, these researchers noted, a child was treated in an ER every three minutes for a toy-related injury. The overall injury rate increased almost 40 percent from 1990 to 2011.

Boys were more likely to be injured than girls. Children younger than 5 sustained slightly more than half the injuries. Most injuries occurred at home.

Children younger than 5 who had inhaled or swallowed small toys or parts were treated at a rate of 14 cases per day.

Toddlers and preschool-age children were most likely to be injured while using a riding toy like a foot-powered scooter, wagon or tricycle.

Twenty-eight percent of children under 5 years old were injured by riding toys. Forty-two percent of the injuries to 5- to 17-year olds occurred because of riding toys.

Injuries from riding toys were also more likely to be serious and to involve a broken or dislocated bone, Dr. Smith and colleagues found. Falls and collisions were the most common accidents for all types of toys.

Foot-powered scooters, which became popular around 2000, accounted for a large part of the increase in toy-related injuries, Dr. Smith and team said. The injury rate for foot-powered scooters alone was about one every 11 minutes.

These researchers noted that the actual injury rates were likely higher because their data was collected only from ERs. Children may also be treated in doctors’ offices and clinics.

According to a press release from Nationwide Children's Hospital, parents and caregivers can prevent toy-related injuries in several ways:

  • Supervise children, especially when they are playing with riding toys.
  • Supervise younger children more closely.
  • Always follow manufacturers’ age restrictions and guidelines.
  • Keep toys with small parts out of the reach of toddlers and younger children.
  • Ensure that children use riding toys on dry, flat surfaces away from vehicle traffic.

This study was published online Dec. 1 in Clinical Pediatrics.

The Medical Student Research Scholarship Program at the Ohio State University College of Medicine provided a student research stipend for study author Vihas M. Abraham, BS. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 28, 2014