Toys…Tips for Purchasing and Safety

With Christmas fast approaching and many of us still buying toys, I am sharing a message from a staff member of St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa, Florida.

image of assorted toysMore than half of the three billion toys and games sold in the United States each year are purchased at Christmas time. And while the majority of toys are safe, thanks in part to stronger federal rules and higher standards from toy makers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that in 2011 alone more than 193,200 U.S. children were treated in hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries.

Toys have changed over the years and the assortment can be astounding, particularly to those who haven’t shopped for kids in a while,” said Bevin Maynard, a child advocate at St Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.”Child safety, however, never goes out of style. It is something parents and family members should always keep in mind when selecting gifts for youngsters.”

Maynard notes that appropriate selection and proper use of toys, combined with parental supervision, can greatly reduce the incidence and severity of toy-related injuries.

When selecting toys this holiday season, be sure to:

  • Choose toys suitable to the child’s age, interest and skill level. “Age labels are for safety reasons and not intended as developmental ratings,” said Maynard. “If a package indicates the toy isn’t suitable for children under 3, it doesn’t mean that your 2-year-old won’t be able to figure out how to play with the toy, but rather that the toy has small parts or sharp pieces that could injure a younger child.”
  • Skip toys with small magnetic pieces for any child under age 6 or under age 10 if they have younger siblings who could easily access the pieces.
  • Look for well-made toys.
  • Avoid toys that produce loud noises. High-volume games can permanently impair a child’s hearing, and loud sounds can frighten a younger child.
  • Avoid toys painted with lead paint. Exposure to lead can result in lead poisoning, causing serious damage to a child’s brain, kidneys and nervous system.
  • Avoid electrical toys with heating elements (batteries, electrical plugs) for children under the age of 8. These toys are a potential burn hazard.
  • Avoid toys with strings, straps or cords longer than 7 inches, which can wrap around a child’s neck and accidentally strangle him or her.
  • Immediately discard plastic wrappings on toys before they become dangerous play things for young children.

Maynard adds that riding toys should not be used near stairs, traffic or swimming pools, and that parents can use the cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper to identify small toy parts that are potential choking hazards. “Small children should not play with anything that can fit into one of these cylinders.”

A Gift is Not Complete Unless Proper Protective Gear is Included
Bicycles, skates, scooters and skateboards are popular gifts for the holidays, but if children lack the proper protective gear or skills, injury and death can occur. To keep kids safe whenever they “wheel” around, be sure to:

  • Include a helmet as part of a gift, which according to Safe Kids USA, can reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury as much as 88 percent.
  • Buy stickers or bike reflectors and use them on the front, sides and back of the bike to increase the child’s visibility to drivers.
  • Buy a bike horn or a bell as a stocking stuffer. This tool is essential for warning motorists and pedestrians of a bicyclist’s approach.
  • Don’t forget to buy elbow and knee pads as well as wrist guards for skates and skateboards.

Kids sometimes are reluctant to wear protective gear, insisting that they are good riders or complain that none of their friends wear them. But Maynard urges parents to resist that temptation, and notes “requiring children to wear a helmet every time, everywhere they go, is the best thing you can do to protect them.”

Learn how to keep kids safe when giving toys by visiting facebook.com/stjosephschildrens.

 

 

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When it Comes to Decorations…Be Fire Conscious

The US Fire Safety Administration shares the following information to keep you safe this holiday season.

Decorating homes and businesses is a long-standing tradition around the holiday season. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase your chances of fire. Based on data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires result in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.

Following a few simple fire safety tips can keep electric lights, candles, and the ever popular Christmas tree from creating a tragedy.

Learn how to prevent a fire and what to do in case a fire starts in your home. Make sure all exits are accessible and not blocked by decorations or trees.

Christmas Trees

fire safetyWhat’s a traditional Christmas morning scene without a beautifully decorated tree? If your household includes a natural tree in its festivities, take to heart the sales person’s suggestion – “Keep the tree watered.”

Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually. Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. Well-watered trees are not a problem. A dry and neglected tree can be.

Selecting a Tree for the Holidays

Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long and, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.

Caring for Your Tree

Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

Disposing of Your Tree

Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.

Maintain Your Holiday Lights

Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.

Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets

Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch. Do not leave holiday lights on unattended!

Use Only Nonflammable Decorations

All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents. If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.

Don’t Block Exits

Ensure that trees and other holiday decorations do not block an exit way. In the event of a fire, time is of the essence. A blocked entry/exit way puts you and your family at risk.

Never Put Wrapping Paper in the Fireplace

Wrapping paper in the fireplace can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers that may result in a chimney fire.

Avoid Using Lit Candles

Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.

If You Do Use Lit Candles

Make sure candles are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn. Never leave a room or go to bed with candles burning.

Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree

Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame – candles, lighters or matches.

Have a fire-free holiday season!

 

 

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What Chemicals are in Your Makeup?

chemicals

Before you apply your makeup or use that personal care item, ask yourself what what chemicals are in what you are using on your face and how safe are they?

You are doing so much to safeguard your health …eating well and getting regular exercise, but are you unknowingly adding chemicals to your body through your makeup and personal care items?

According to the Environmental Work Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization that uses public information to protect public health and the environment, the US government has no authority to require companies to test personal care products for safety before they reach the store shelf.

EWG’s research documents that 22 percent of all personal care products may contain the cancer-causing contaminant 1,4-Dioxane, and more than half of all sunscreens contain oxybenzone, a potential hormone disruptor. Other studies raise serious concerns about makeup such as lead in lipsticks and chemicals in fragrance and artificial preservatives in personal care products.

Fragrance, in particular, has become a source of concern due to the unlisted ingredients behind the scents. A study of 17 popular fragrances by the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, advocacy groups focused on exposing products they deem hazardous to health, found 14 undisclosed chemicals, on average. Among them were phthalates, which are used to soften plastic and have been linked to various ailments.

The following groups of chemicals are currently being studied for links to breast cancer:

  • Parabens – chemicals commonly used as preservatives in many cosmetic products, including makeup, moisturizers, hair care products, and gels.
  • Phthalates – used to hold color and reduce brittleness in nail polish and hair spray. They’re also found in many personal care items.

Before you use your current makeup again, or buy a new makeup, visit the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep site and  check your makeup and personal care items scores.  EWG lists a product’s hazard score based on the chemicals links to cancer, allergies, and other issues.

 

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Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

 FoodSafety.gov developed and published the following message about foods to avoid while pregnant.

foodsBecause pregnancy affects your immune system, you and your unborn baby are more susceptible to the bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are in some foods and can cause foodborne illness. Even if you don’t feel sick, some “bugs” like Listeria and Toxoplasma can infect your baby and cause serious health problems. Your baby is also sensitive to toxins from the foods that you eat, such as mercury in certain kinds of fish.

Keep this checklist handy to help ensure that you and your unborn baby stay healthy and safe. Be sure to invest in a food thermometer to check the temperatures of cooked foods.

Don’t Eat These Foods Why What to Do
Soft CHEESES made from unpasteurized milk, including Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, and queso fresco May contain E. coli or Listeria. Eat hard cheeses, such as cheddar or Swiss. Or, check the label and make sure that the cheese is made from pasteurized milk.
Raw COOKIE DOUGH or CAKE BATTER May contain Salmonella. Bake the cookies and cake. Don’t lick the spoon!
Certain kinds of FISH, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish (golden or white snapper) Contains high levels of mercury. Eat up to 12 ounces a week of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, such as shrimp, salmon, pollock, and catfish.Limit consumption of albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week.
Raw or undercooked FISH (sushi) May contain parasites or bacteria. Cook fish to 145° F.
Unpasteurized JUICE or cider (including fresh squeezed) May contain E. coli. Drink pasteurized juice. Bring unpasteurized juice or cider to a rolling boil and boil for at least 1 minute before drinking.
Unpasteurized MILK May contain bacteria such as Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, or Salmonella. Drink pasteurized milk.
SALADS made in a store, such as ham salad, chicken salad, and seafood salad. May contain Listeria. Make salads at home, following the food safety basics: clean, separate, cook, and chill.
Raw SHELLFISH, such as oysters and clams May contain Vibrio bacteria. Cook shellfish to 145° F.
Raw or undercooked SPROUTS, such as alfalfa, clover, mung bean, and radish May contain E. coli or Salmonella. Cook sprouts thoroughly.

Be Careful with These Foods Why What to Do
Hot dogs, luncheon meats, cold cuts, fermented or dry sausage, and other deli-style meat and poultry May contain Listeria. Even if the label says that the meat is precooked, reheat these meats to steaming hot or 165° F before eating.
Eggs and pasteurized egg products Undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella. Cook eggs until yolks are firm. Cook casseroles and other dishes containing eggs or egg products to 160° F.
Eggnog Homemade eggnog may contain uncooked eggs, which may contain Salmonella. Make eggnog with a pasteurized egg product or buy pasteurized eggnog. When you make eggnog or other egg-fortified beverages, cook to 160°F
Fish May contain parasites or bacteria. Cook fish to 145° F.
Ice cream Homemade ice cream may contain uncooked eggs, which may contain Salmonella. Make ice cream with a pasteurized egg product safer by adding the eggs to the amount of liquid called for in the recipe, then heating the mixture thoroughly..
Meat: Beef, veal, lamb, and pork (including ground meat) Undercooked meat may contain E. coli. Cook beef, veal, and lamb steaks and roasts to 145° F. Cook pork to 160° F. Cook all ground meats to 160° F.
Meat spread or pate Unpasteurized refrigerated pates or meat spreads may contain Listeria. Eat canned versions, which are safe.
Poultry and stuffing (including ground poultry) Undercooked meat may contain bacteria such as Campylobacter or Salmonella. Cook poultry to 165° F. If the poultry is stuffed, cook the stuffing to 165° F. Better yet, cook the stuffing separately.
Smoked seafood Refrigerated versions are not safe, unless they have been cooked to 165° F. Eat canned versions, which are safe, or cook to 165° F.

Eat foods that are good for you and have a healthier pregnancy!

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Medicines Can Hurt…Use and Store Carefully

medicines

Each year, nearly  500,000 calls to the Poison Control Center are about children ingesting medicines that belong predominately to parents and grandparents.

Safe Kids Worldwide shares the following tips about keeping your child safe from medicines that could have serious consequences for them.

Store Medicines Safely

  • Put all medicines up and away and out of sight including your own. Make sure that all medicines and vitamins are stored out of reach and out of sight of children. In 3 out of 4 emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the child got into medicine belonging to a parent or grandparent.
  • Consider places where kids get into medicine. Kids get into medication in all sorts of places, like in purses and nightstands.  In 67% of emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the medicine was left within reach of a child, such as in a purse, on a counter or dresser, or on the ground. Place purses and bags in high locations, and avoid leaving medicines on a nightstand or dresser.
  • Consider products you might not think about as medicines. Most parents store medicine up and away – or at least the products they consider to be medicine. They may not think about products such as diaper rash remedies, vitamins or eye drops as medicine, but they actually are and need to be stored safely.
  • Close your medicine caps tightly after every use. Choose child-resistant caps for medicine bottles, if you’re able to. If pill boxes or non-child resistant caps are the only option, it’s even more important to store these containers up high and out of sight when caring for kids. And remember, child-resistant does not mean child-proof, and some children will still be able to get into medicine given enough time and persistence.
  • Be alert to visitors’ medicine. Guests in your home may not be thinking about the medicine they brought with them in their belongings. In 43% of emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the medicine a child got into belonged to a relative, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle. When you have guests in your home, offer to put purses, bags and coats out of reach of children to protect their property from a curious child.
  • Be alert to medicine in places your child visits. You know to store medicine safely in your home, but do you ever think about medicine safety when your child isn’t at home? Asking people your child visits to put their medicines in a safe place works for some parents, but it may feel socially awkward to others.  Another option is to take a look around to see if any medicines are stored within reach and deal with any risks in sight.
  • Even if you are tempted to keep it handy, put medicine out of reach after every use. When you need to give another dose in just a few hours, it may be tempting to keep medicine close at hand. But accidents can happen fast, and it only takes a few seconds for children to get into medicine that could make them very sick. Put medicine up and away after every use. And if you need a reminder, set an alarm on your watch or cell phone, or write yourself a note.

Give Medicines Safely

  • Use the dosing device that comes with the medicine. Proper dosing is important, particularly for young children. Kitchen spoons aren’t all the same, and a teaspoon and tablespoon used for cooking won’t measure the same amount as the dosing device.
  • Keep all medicines in their original packages and containers.
  • Take the time to read the label and follow the directions. Even if you have used the medicine before, sometimes the directions change about how much medicine to give.
  • Even if your child seems really sick, don’t give more medicine than the label says. It won’t help your child feel better faster, and it may cause harm.
  • Read the label and know what’s in the medicine. Take the time to read the label and follow the directions on your child’s medicine. Check the active ingredients listed on the label. Make sure you don’t give your child more than one medicine with the same active ingredient, because it puts your child at risk for an overdose.

Communicate to Caregivers

  • If you are depending on someone else to give your child medicine, communicate clearly to avoid double dosing or dosing errors. More than 67,000 parents call poison control centers about dosing errors each year.
  • Write clear instructions to other caregivers, including what medicine to give, when to give it and the correct dose.

Get Rid of Medicines Safely

  • Clean out your medicine cabinet. Reduce the risk of kids getting into medicine by getting rid of unused or expired medicine. Many communities have a medicine take-back program. This is an easy way to get rid of your unused or expired medicines.
  • To dispose of it yourself, pour the medicine into a sealable plastic bag. If the medicine is a pill, add water to dissolve it. Then add kitty litter, sawdust or coffee grounds to the plastic bag. You can add anything that mixes with the medicine to make it less appealing for children or pets.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that certain medicines are so dangerous they should be flushed down the toilet.

Talk to Your Kids about Medication Safety

  • Talk to your kids about medication safety. Even if their medicine tastes good, don’t compare it to candy to encourage kids to take it.
  • Speak with older kids about the dangers of misusing or abusing prescription or over-the-counter medicines.

Educate Grandparents

  • It is estimated that in 38 percent of ER visits involving a medicine poisoning, the medicine belonged to a grandparent. Talk to grandparents about being extra mindful with medicine or pillboxes when children are around.
  • Don’t forget to remind other family members and visitors as well.

Put the Poison Help Number in Your Phone

  • Put the toll-free number for the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) into your home and cell phones. You can also put the number on your refrigerator or another place in your home where babysitters and caregivers can see it. And remember, the poison help number is not just for emergencies, you can call with questions about how to take or give medicine.
  • If your child has collapsed, is not breathing, or has a seizure, call 911.
  • Do not make children vomit or give them anything unless directed by a professional.

You can download these tips about medicines here.

 

 

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