Staying up to Date on Recalls will Help Keep Your Kids and Family Safe
By Sam Smith, MD, Surgeon in Chief, Arkansas Children's Hospital
With every passing year, we learn about products that can be unintentionally dangerous or harmful to children such as disc batteries or single-load liquid laundry packets that look like candy. Many families are surprised to learn that even the equipment they buy to comfort or protect their children sometimes develops defects or creates unsafe risks. Who would want to find out after their newborn was injured by the bassinet falling out of its frame that this brand of bassinet was part of product recall that they knew nothing about.
It's important that families know with certainty that any products that their infant, child, or other family uses are safe. More products on the market also mean more recalls by the companies that produce them.
Just take a look at the daily headlines, and it's hard to miss a story about a massive recall of an item created for babies and children.
In February, one of the nation's largest car seat makers, Graco, issued a recall of 3.8 million safety seats after finding that a defective harness buckle could potentially become stuck when latched, especially after being coated with food and dried liquids. Graco is offering replacement harnesses for anyone with one of the 18 affected models.
And Britax, another popular manufacturer, recalled thousands of their strollers just weeks before because of a hazard where adults could injure their fingers while folding up the stroller. The company is also offering consumers a free repair kit.
So how can families know that the big purchases they make to prepare for their newborn are safe for those precious babies? First, they need to do their research.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) maintains a comprehensive list of recalls on items on their website at cpsc.gov/. There were more than 20 recalls issued in March alone, and most of them were for children's items.
In addition, Safe Kids Worldwide, a non-profit concerned with any threat to children's safety, updates a list of recalls that might affect babies and kids from agencies including CPSC, the Food & Drug Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The list can be found at safekids.org on the first tab at the top of the page.
Safe Kids also keeps families up to date on other activities regarding product safety and offers an email newsletter so parents can get word of a recall as soon as it's issued.
Families should also fill out and mail in registration cards for any devices like car seats, strollers, cribs or play yards. The manufacturers will contact owners of recalled products to be sure they are aware and have instructions for what to do next. Sometimes that means requesting a product replacement; other times the companies may send you a repair kit for free.
And don't forget that new products aren't the only ones that may be recalled. When shopping at the popular seasonal consignment events remember that a quick search on your smart phone might reveal that a second-hand item has been previously recalled. This is also important if you receive hand-me-downs or find an item for a steal at a neighbor's yard sale.
There are, of course, other product issues beyond recalls that can be a risk to your child's safety. The Arkansas Children's Hospital New Parent Planner kit, offered free at http://www.archildrens.org/Parent-Packet.aspx, includes a registry guide that helps parents make decisions for their new arrival's safety. It provides a great reminder about the items you don't need – like unsafe sleep positioners and bumper pads – as well as the nursery essentials that can help you create the best environment for your baby, including sleep sacks and pacifiers.
There are really only a few things infants truly need when they make their debuts – nutrition and cuddles chief among them! Parents can rest assured that with a little safety research, everything else may make life just a little bit easier.
Here's another tip: Be sure to download the new MyACH iPhone app, free from Arkansas Children's Hospital in the App Store. Everything a busy parent needs – from a health library to storage for your child's health info, insurance, medications and more.
Sam Smith, MD, is surgeon in chief at Arkansas Children's Hospital and a professor of Surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He writes a column each week covering a variety of kids' medical concerns. If you have a topic you'd like him to consider addressing, email firstname.lastname@example.org.