Millions of children's products are recalled each year and purged from store shelves. Whew, right? Not necessarily. Plenty of hazardous household items still lurk in our homes; keep your eye out for these off-the-radar risks.
They're the biggest cause of choking deaths for children under 10. "A hot dog is exactly the right shape and diameter to completely block the back of a child's throat," Gary Smith, M.D., President of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "If you were to ask the best engineers in the world to go out and design the perfect plug for a child's airway, you couldn't do much better than a hotdog." Overall, 66 to 77 children die from choking on food each year in the U.S. and 10,000 kids age 14 and younger visit emergency departments annually because of food choking.
Reduce your child's risk: Chop up hot dogs and other firm, round foods like carrot sticks into bite-size pieces--no larger than half an inch--before giving them to your child and encourage him to chew thoroughly. But don't feed hard, smooth foods such as peanuts, popcorn, whole grapes or raw vegetables like carrot sticks to your baby or toddler. These foods aren't appropriate for this age group because they require chewing with a grinding motion--something they don't master until age 4--which may prompt your child to try to swallow the foods whole. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, peanuts are no-nos until age 7.
Lithium, 3-Volt button batteries
They're everywhere--in electronic toys, remote controls, TV channel changers, even greeting cards--and they're a huge problem for young children because they can get stuck in their esophagus (food tube) on the way down, causing serious damage in less than two hours. "They're twice the voltage of previous button batteries," says Dr. Smith. They can create an electrical microcurrent in the esophagus that can perforate it and burn through to the aorta, a large artery. Children can die or experience scarring that can cause problems for years, Dr. Smith says.
Reduce your child's risk: Keep button batteries away from your child as much as you can. If you've got young children and your TV remote control contains a button battery, for example, tape it shut. If you think your child has swallowed a button battery, get to the emergency department immediately. "Don't wait until the morning," Dr. Smith says.
Small powerful magnets can be found in lots of children's toys, such as builder sets. If your child swallows more than one, the magnets can pass down into the intestines and attract, pinching off the blood supply. Over hours, intestinal tissue can die and perforate, spilling bacteria-ridden intestinal contents into the abdomen, potentially causing sepsis -- a life-threatening infection with a 50 percent mortality rate.
Reduce your child's risk: Don't bring toys with small magnets into your home. "Small magnets are a problem for kids as old as 10," says Dr. Smith. "They may swallow them because they just don't know any better and wonder what will happen." Small magnets don't always show up well on X-rays. Kids who've consumed them may experience stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If you think your child has swallowed one or more magnets, head to the emergency department. If your child has ingested just one, the good news is that it's likely to pass through without incident.