Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Urges Parents to be Vigilant Against Potentially Dangerous Toys this Holiday Season

December 21, 2011

As the winter holidays arrive, children are excited to receive the toys they have been asking for all year. However, experts at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC encourage parents to shop cautiously and be aware of toys and gadgets that could pose a major threat to children.

Especially dangerous are the small, disc-shaped batteries in toys that could be tempting to young children. In 2010, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 3,807 disc battery ingestions, and 94 percent of the ingestions occurred in children less than five years of age. The Pittsburgh Poison Center managed 57 ingestions of disc batteries involving children in 2010.

These flat, coin-like batteries are commonly used in mini remote controls, cameras, watches, games and calculators, and can cause serious health problems for children. If swallowed, they may stick in the throat or stomach, causing serious burns and tissue damage as the chemicals leak out. Parents should keep the batteries locked safely inside the toys and electronics in which they are used or store them out of reach of children and promptly and properly dispose of used batteries, as well. If a child does ingest a battery, immediately call the Pittsburgh Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

“These tiny objects may look like a tempting piece of candy to many children, but can cause serious damage if swallowed,” said Barbara Gaines, M.D., director of the Benedum Pediatric Trauma Program at Children’s Hospital. “The best preventative measure parents can take is to check all of their child’s new toys beforehand to ensure they are safe and to be aware if they contain any small batteries.”

Bikes are another popular toy this holiday season. Kids will be eager to get out and try them, but should always wear a helmet and know the rules of the road before doing so.

To keep the holidays safe for your entire family, Children’s offers some additional tips for parents:

  • Make sure lights are marked with the UL Seal (Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., an independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization).
  • Always check indoor and outdoor wires, bulbs, electrical plugs and sockets before using.
  • Do not overload electric outlets or extension cords.
  • Do not run electrical cords under rugs or carpets. Cords can fray and cause a fire.
  • Turn off holiday lights when leaving the house or going to bed.

When using an artificial Christmas tree:

  • Make sure it is labeled “fire resistant.”
  • Place the tree away from heat sources such as radiators or fireplaces. If possible, place it near a smoke detector.
  • Aluminum and metallic trees should not be decorated with lights. They may conduct electricity and cause electrocution.
  • Use flame-resistant ornaments.
  • Never decorate trees with lighted candles or other flammable decorations.
  • Avoid decorating with small objects that could be swallowed by a child.

When sledding, skiing and snowboarding:

  • Make sure children wear a helmet.
  • Always supervise children.
  • Teach children to roll off a sled that won’t stop. Tell them not to worry about the sled.

For more information and safety tips for the holiday season, please visit

Andrea Kunicky, 412-692-6254,
Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919,