Recall alert!
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Recall alert!

Every year products designed just for children are recalled for injuring them.

It's scary, but true: each year more than 2 million children are injured or killed by hazards at home. Even more frightening is the fact that products designed especially for kids can do them harm. The good news: you can help keep your child safe by being on alert for dangerous or recalled children's products.

Choking is the number one hazard associated with recalled products, but falls and entrapment/strangulation also account for a number of injuries and deaths. Read on to learn more about some of the most common dangers associated with nursery products:

Crib care

More infants die each year in accidents involving their crib than with any other nursery product, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). To reduce your child's risk of injury, only use a crib that meets Federal safety regulations and voluntary industry standards (check the labeling to find out). Select a crib without cutouts in the headboard or footboard and with slats that are no more than 2 3/8 inches wide--wider slats and cutouts can trap and strangle a baby. Also, be sure that the crib mattress fits snugly inside the crib. The CPSC recently recalled the Le Cradle bassinet because a 3-month-old suffocated after becoming trapped in the opening between the side of the bassinet and the mattress.

Baby gate guide

Accordion-style baby gates that have large V-shaped openings along the top edge and diamond-shaped openings between the slats are very dangerous for children. The CPSC has received reports of children getting their heads entrapped in the openings when they tried to crawl through or over the gates. This type of baby gate hasn't been sold since 1985, but they can still turn up as a hand-me-down or at a yard sale.

High chair highlights

Every year, thousands of kids are rushed to the hospital with high chair-related injuries. Most of the injuries occurred because the restraining straps weren't fastened or the child wasn't closely supervised. Without the restraining straps on, kids may stand up in the chair and fall out. However, the majority of deaths resulted from children slipping under the chair's tray and being strangled. The safest high chairs have both a waist strap and a strap that goes between the legs--and it's essential that both straps be used every time the child is placed in the seat.

Playpen pointers

Here's one playpen danger many parents may not be aware of: leaving the side of mesh playpens or cribs in the down position (whether or not the baby is in the playpen). Deaths have been reported when the sides are left down and kids are trapped and suffocated by the bunched up material. Another danger involves playpens or travel cribs that can be folded up. In order to fold, these products often employ a rotating hinge in the center of the top rails. The rails can collapse and form a V shape that can trap a child's neck. The CPSC has recalled several brands of playpens with these rotating latches in the center of the top rails. The solution: select a playpen or a travel crib with top rails that lock automatically when lifted into position.

Toy tips

If there's one thing that's a given about children, it's this: they will put anything and everything into their mouth. For that reason, certain toys, rattles, and even pacifiers can pose a choking hazard to little ones. Assume that anything you give your child will end up in her mouth, so only give her toys that are too large to become lodged in her throat and that are well constructed so they won't break apart into small pieces that a child could choke on. Soft, squishy toys that can be compressed enough to fit into a child's mouth are another potential danger. Pacifiers become dangerous if the nipple separates from the shield, as happened recently to Playtex Classic Patterns Cherubs and Soft Comfort pacifiers.

Walker wisdom

Walkers are responsible for injuring more children than any other kids' products. There are three main dangers associated with children in walkers: falling down stairs, tipping over, and getting burned (by touching hot surfaces such as stove doors and radiators as they toddle past). To avoid accidents, choose a walker that is too wide to fit through doorways so your child can't move from room to room. Always keep the door or gate at the top of stairs closed to prevent falls and only use a walker on smooth surfaces--carpet edges and uneven pavement can cause them to tip. Finally, keep your child away from pools, toilets and other sources of water then he's in a walker.

Keep on top of recalls

Staying up-to-date on the frequent recalls of children's products can be overwhelming, but the information can be a lifesaver -- literally. The CSPC offers a mailing list of free email updates on recalled products. To subscribe, go to

The hand-me-down danger

Before you accept your friend's portable crib or buy a baby swing at a garage sale, find out if that product has been recalled. Children have been hurt and some even killed by injuries from used products their parents didn't know were recalled. Besides checking on possible recalls, here are other ways to keep your child out of harm's way:

  • Review products in your home and at your childcare provider's to make sure no toys, products or equipment being used have been recalled. If your child is injured while using a product, notify the CPSC and the manufacturer.
  • Do not assume that a product that failed to harm your first child will be safe for subsequent children.
  • Before you reuse any item, be sure it hasn't been recalled.
  • If a product comes with a warranty, fill it out and return it so the manufacturer can contact you if necessary.
  • Pay attention to radio and news reports about recalled products.
  • Check your pediatrician's office for information about product recalls.--Kristen Finello and Sylvia Barsotti