In 2011, an average of one child every three minutes was treated in an emergency room for a toy-related injury. This is according to a study carried out by researchers from Nationwide Children's Hospital's Center for Injury Research and Policy, which estimated that between 1990 and 2011, 3,278,073 children in the United States visited emergency rooms for toy-related injuries.
Published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics, the pioneering study also pointed out that over half of the cases involving toy-related injuries happened to children under 5 years old. Over the 22-year period covering the data the researchers examined, the injury rate also rose by nearly 40 percent, an increase that mostly involved foot-powered scooters. In fact, from 2000 to 2011, more than 580,000 injuries, one every 11 minutes, involving foot-powered scooters were reported.
According to Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy and senior author for the study, children face different hazards at different ages. For example, children below 3 years of age were at higher risk of choking on small parts. For the duration of the study period, over 109,000 cases of children under 5 years of age inhaling or swallowing "foreign bodies" were recorded. That's an equivalent of nearly 14 cases every day.
As for injuries involving riding toys, the number of cases increased as children got older. Toys like wagons, tricycles and foot-powered scooters were associated with 28 percent of injuries in children under age 5 and 42 percent for those between 5 and 17 years old.
Injuries involving ride-on toys were also three times likelier to include a dislocation or a broken bone compared with any other toy. Collisions and falls were the most common ways children were injured, accounting for 22 percent and 46 percent, respectively, of cases associated with toys from all categories.
"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," added Smith.
To keep children safe around toys, child caregivers and parents are advised to follow age restrictions; adhere to manufacturer guidelines; examine choking hazards; enforce a "wear all gear" rule for helmets, knee pads and elbow pads; and closely supervise children at play, especially those under age 8 using a riding toy.
Data for the study were taken from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The database features information on all consumer product-, recreation- and sports-related injuries treated in emergency rooms all over the country.
Other authors include Thipalak Chounthirath, MS; Christopher Gaw, BS; and Vihas Abraham, BS.