Friday, December 19, 2008

Health Care and Holiday Shopping

Tis the Season...for mad dashing to the stores, for endless parking lot road games, for multiple stops at Starbucks to stay caffeinated and energized, for hectic holiday shopping til you're dropping. Dr. Vincent Ianelli, pediatrician, says that parents usually have a lot to think about when trying to buy gifts for their kids at the holidays. This year, make sure you also think about your child's safety and think about choosing safe toys and gifts. Additionally, there are multiple health considerations when you are out fighting the crowds for those perfect gifts to give family and friends.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers these toy safety shopping tips--
Under 3 Years Old:
Children under 3 tend to put everything in their mouths. Avoid buying toys intended for older children which may have small parts that pose a choking danger. Never let children of any age play with uninflated or broken balloons because of the choking danger. Avoid marbles, balls, and games with balls that have balls with a diameter of 1.75 inches or less. These products also pose a choking hazard to young children. Avoid toys with small magnets, magnetic pieces, or loose magnets, as they can be swallowed. Unfortunately, if two magnets connect together after they are swallowed, they can cause an intestinal blockage or more serious problems. Children at this age pull, prod and twist toys. Look for toys that are well-made with tightly secured eyes, noses and other parts.

Ages 3 Through 5:
Avoid toys that have sharp edges and points. Avoid toys that are constructed with thin, brittle plastic that might easily break into small pieces or leave jagged edges. Look for household art materials including crayons and paint sets, marked with the designation "ASTM D-4236." This means the product has been reviewed by a toxicologist and, if necessary, labeled with cautionary information. You should also avoid toys with magnets at this age.

Ages 6 Through 12:
Teach older children to keep their toys away from their younger brothers and sisters. If buying a toy gun, be sure the barrel or the entire gun is brightly colored so that it's not mistaken for a real gun. For children of all ages: check toys regularly for small parts, breakage and potential hazards, including chipped or peeling pain. Damaged or dangerous toys should be repaired or thrown away. And, watch for toy recalls and quickly remove recalled toys. Also, encourage your kids to not put their toys in their mouth (although it is harder for infants and younger toddlers). If you buy a bicycle, scooter, skates, or other sporting goods, buy a helmet and appropriate pads too, and make sure the child wears them. Teach them to put toys away when they're finished playing so they don't trip over or fall on them. Also keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics: recommends against the home use of trampolines, recommends that children under 16 shouldn't ride on 4 wheel All Terrain Vehicles, advises a ban on the sale of all 3-wheeled ATVs, and advises that children are at big risk of getting hurt from non-powder guns, like BB guns, pellet guns, air rifles, and paintball guns

Hearing Loss and Loud Toys: It is easy to spot some unsafe toys, like those with sharp edges or small parts, but loud toys are an under-recognized hazard to children. Remember that some toys, even those recommended for young children, can produce noise at a level that could damage your child's hearing. These types of toys include cap guns, musical toys, toy phones, horns, sirens, and even squeaky rubber toys, which can produce noise as high as 90 to 120 decibels. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, when held directly to the ear, as children often do, a noisy toy actually exposes the ear to as much as 120 dB of sound, a damaging dose -- the equivalent of a jet plane taking off. Noise at this level is painful and can result in permanent hearing loss. Although you likely should avoid toys that sound loud, if your child gets any toys that make noise, be sure that he doesn't put them up to his ear, which can cause even more damage to his hearing.

Living Healthy Chicago offers the following tips for healthy holiday gift giving--
1.) Gym Membership: Treat your loved one to a personal training session at their gym (who doesn't want customized care?), or give them a headstart on their New Year's resolution by buying them a year-long membership at a gym nearby their home or office.
2.) Trendy Exercise Gear: Did you know that what you wear to the gym can affect your workout mood? Wear soft, comfortable gymwear. You likely do not feel as motivated when sporting a ratty t-shirt and old sweatpants. Nike, Lululemon and Champion offer workout apparel that's both fashionable and functional.
3.) Fruit Gift Basket: A bouquet of edible fruit and the large, colorful basket is always a hit with the entire office. Real flowers are replaced with carefully carved cantaloupe, watermelon and pineapple. This is a sweet gesture and provides deliciously sin-free snacking.
4.) Flu Shot: Seems like an odd gift, but some people have avoided getting the Flu shot this year because they don't want to cough up the $20-$25 fee. Your friend or college-aged child will thank you for the gesture when he or she steers clear of the bug invading the office or dorm room.
5.) Facial Steamer & Aromatherapy Perfumes: Winter's unpredictable weather patterns make us all an easy target for colds and coughs in the winter months. Give your friend a facial steamer and bottle of aromatherapy to keep them healthy throughout the cold season. Plants like Eucalyptus and Peppermint help clear sinuses and provide a general state of relaxation.

Finally, keep in mind that colds, viruses, and flu bugs are rampant this time of year. Protect yourself and others when you are shopping, especially if the weather takes a nasty turn for the worse. Try to avoid people who are rampantly coughing, sneezing, or snorting. Stay safe and warm if you need to be out in very cold temperatures, and make sure that your vehicle is mechanically up to speed if you are driving in bad weather or at night. Wash your hands often to keep bacteria at bay; and bundle up the kids if you take them with you, especially if the temperatures dip into the 30's or below. Also, avoid fatigue as much as possible by pacing yourself during the marathon shopping events. Keep a good sense of humor, too. Using common sense will help keep you and your loved ones safe during the Holidays.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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