Choking Hazards

What Parents and Caregivers Need to Know

Fidget spinners have been in the news recently for a variety of reasons. Although they have been around for a while, they have recently become very popular among children. However, alongside the surge in popularly, reports have also emerged that some spinners can break apart into small pieces. These small parts can be hazardous, especially for young children.

In May, a 10-year-old girl in Texas was sent to the hospital for ingesting and choking on part of a fidget spinner. In trying to clean the metal bearing, she accidentally swallowed the small piece. It became stuck in her esophagus, and endoscopic surgery was required to remove it. Less than two weeks later, a 5-year-old boy in Oregon was also rushed to the emergency room after ingesting a piece of the fidget spinner that had become detached.

Some fidget spinner manufacturers include warnings that their products may be unsafe for children under the age of three. These safety warnings and age restrictions are designed to prevent choking incidents associated with the products.

The issue of choking and ingestion hazards is not limited to fidget spinners – a wide variety of toys and other children’s products can pose choking and ingestion hazards. There are some measures in place aimed at protecting children from these dangers. Federal regulations require that toys go through testing. If a toy cannot fit into a device called a small parts test fixture (SPTF)—which is about the same size as a toddler’s throat—it’s deemed safe for children under the age of three to play with. However, a recent research report by Kids In Danger (KID) found that the SPTF may not be big enough. In fact, several products have been recalled due to choking incidents reported in connection with pieces that are larger than the SPTF.

The fidget spinner injury reports and emerging research on the SPTF both suggest that more work must be done on safety labeling and testing methods in order to protect children from choking and ingestion hazards.

In order to protect your children from these hazards, here are several easy-to-remember tips:

  • Use the toilet paper tube test. Toilet paper rolls are about the same size as the small parts test fixture. Test items in your home by sliding them through a toilet paper tube – if the item fits, it is too small for children under three.
  • Read and follow the age label warnings, safety messages and assembly instructions for toys and other products. Age guidelines are given for safety reasons and should not be ignored even if your child seems advanced for their age.
  • Check toys often for hazards like loose parts, broken pieces or sharp edges, and repair or discard any weak or broken toys.
  • Be aware of the dangers associated with certain magnets and magnetic toys. If multiple strong magnets are ingested, they can attract to each other through body tissue and cause severe internal harm. Magnet ingestion can be difficult to detect, and surgery is often required to remove magnets.