Get Healthy Carson City: Make sure little ones stay safe with holiday gifts

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

In the holiday classic film, “A Christmas Story,” 9-year-old Ralphie Parker wants only one thing for Christmas: an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. His mother, his teacher, and Santa all respond with, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

In 2013, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated hospital emergency rooms across the country treated 265,700 toy-related injuries; 73 percent of those injuries were to children under the age of 15. In fact, approximately 83,700 were to those under 5 years of age. It’s important to do your part to reduce the number of children who suffer injuries while playing with things that are meant to provide joy.

As you’re doing your holiday shopping this year, keep the following tips in mind.

Inspect all toys before you child plays with them. Make sure they are in good working order and properly assembled to reduce risk of injury. Evaluate toys your child has received as gifts to make sure they are appropriate for your child’s age and developmental level.

Gifts like sports equipment should include any necessary protective gear, if the child doesn’t already have it (for example, a bike helmet if they are given a bike or knee and elbow pads with a skateboard). Kids should also be shown how to properly use any equipment to avoid injury, and parents should take responsibility for ensuring their child’s safety by making sure they wear the necessary safety equipment. A helmet left in the garage is not protecting anyone’s head.

Save the warranties and directions for toys. If you’re sending the toy to a young friend or relative, include a gift receipt in case a parent feels it’s not appropriate for the child. Better yet, check with the parents to see if a gift is a good fit for their child before making a purchase.

Inspect toys for sturdiness. Your child’s toys should be durable, with no sharp edges or points. The toys should also withstand impact.

Don’t give toys with small parts to young children. Young kids tend to put things in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking. If the part of a toy can fit in a toilet paper roll, the toy isn’t appropriate for children under the age of 3.

Keep toys meant for older children away from younger ones. A bike, action figure set, or electronics may be great for an elementary age child, but could be harmful to a toddler sibling.

Many toys on kids’ lists this year might be dangerous, but with proper supervision and care, they can still be great gifts. Ralphie Parker did indeed get his Red Ryder BB gun, and nearly did shoot his eye out. By following the tips above, you can help ensure the children in your life have a Christmas free of similar accidents.

The holidays should be a time of fun. By providing children with the toys they want, you can make their day bright, but by ensuring any toys are safe, you can make sure they have hours of enjoyment throughout the year. For more information about other Health Department services, check out our website at, or visit us at


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