ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Indian Spice May Thwart Liver Damage
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Cane Use May Cut Progression of Knee Osteoarthritis
Human Ancestors Put Best Foot Forward 1.5M Years Ago
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
CANCER
Sharing Cancer Info May Be Empowering
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
U.S. Reported 25,000 Cases of HPV-Related Cancers Annually
CAREGIVING
Timing May Matter in Organ Donation Decisions
Injected Medication Errors a Major Problem
Many Hospital Patients Can't ID Their Doctors
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
COSMETIC
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
Health Tip: After Liposuction
DENTAL, ORAL
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
Scientists Find Gene for Tooth Enamel
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
DIABETES
Lifestyle Factors Tied to Older Adults' Diabetes Risk
Laughter May Lower Heart Attack Risk in Diabetics
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Coffee Drinking Lowers Women's Stroke Risk
Olive Oil May Be Key to Mediterranean Diet's Benefits
Breakfast Eggs Keep Folks on Diet
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
As Earth Warms, Lyme Disease Could Flourish
City Kids Find the Breathin' Is Easier Elsewhere
Chemicals in Carpets, Non-Stick Pans Tied to Thyroid Disease
EYE CARE, VISION
Antioxidant-Rich Diet May Protect Against Eye Disease
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
Just Like Skin, Eyes Can 'Burn' in Strong Sun
FITNESS
Walking Golf Course Affects Swing, Performance
Exercise Keeps the Brain Young
When It Comes to Lifting, the Pros Have Your Back
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
Winter's Bitter Cold Poses Health Dangers
Tune Up Your Health With Music
U.S. Prepares for Possible Return of Swine Flu in Fall
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Risk Factor for Stroke More Common Among Whites
Dark Chocolate May Lower Stroke Risk
Years of Heavy Smoking Raises Heart Risks
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
School Phys. Ed. Injuries Up 150 Percent
Teen Stress May Have Roots in First Three Years of Life
Standard IQ Test May Underestimate People With Autism
MEN'S HEALTH
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
MENTAL HEALTH
Psychotherapy Can Boost Happiness More Than Money
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
How to Attack Holiday Stress Head-On
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
SENIORS
Healthy Diet Could Cut Alzheimer's Disease Risk
Nighttime Urination Linked to Higher Death Rate Among Elderly
Laughter Can Stimulate a Dull Appetite
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Relief for Painful Menstrual Cramps
Vitamin D Deficiency Puts 40% of U.S. Infants and Toddlers At Risk
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
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When It Comes to Toys, Shop Smart, Shop Safe

(HealthDay News) -- Parents are crowding into stores this holiday season, searching for toys that will prompt smiles, cheers and hugs from their kids.

But parents also need to keep in mind that there are potentially dangerous toys on store shelves, so they must use judgment and common sense with every purchase.

"There are still some items that fall through the cracks," said Liz Hitchcock, a public health advocate for U.S. PIRG, who wrote this year's Trouble in Toyland report for the non-profit consumer protection group. "Consumers buying toys should be careful of what they buy."

There is encouraging news: New federal laws passed in the wake of the massive toy recalls of 2007 are kicking in, which means the toys out for this year should be among the safest ever, experts said.

"New federal safety rules are in place that should give consumers greater confidence when they go toy shopping this holiday season," said Nychelle Fleming, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. There are now tough limits on lead and phthalates (endocrine disruptors commonly used in plastics) in toys, as well as new mandatory safety standards.

"This is the first holiday shopping season where you'll see these things implemented," she said.

Government and business reaction to the problems of 2007 also have improved toy safety, Fleming noted. There were 162 toy recalls in 2008; this year, by November there had only been 38 toy recalls, she said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission attributes the drop in toy recalls to several factors, Fleming said: toy manufacturers placing a greater emphasis on quality, improved product enforcement at United States ports, better cooperation with countries that produce toys, and sharper consumers putting more thought into what they pluck off store shelves for purchase.

Despite this new emphasis on toy safety, researchers at U.S. PIRG still found in their Trouble in Toyland report toys on shelves in September and October that pose potential hazards to children. These include:

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Choking hazards, which prompted the most toy safety recalls in 2009, according to U.S. PIRG. By November, 5.3 million toys and children's products had been pulled from store shelves -- part of the 38 total toy recalls -- due to choking hazards.

Still, the group said it was able to find toys for children under age 3 that contained small parts. "Kids under the age of 3 put everything in their mouth," Hitchcock said. Parents should use a cardboard toilet paper tube or a choke tube to test individual pieces of a toy and see if they will pose a choking hazard.
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Toys containing toxins. Despite the new federal laws, U.S. PIRG found a number of children's products that contained high amounts of lead or phthalates.

"We were disappointed to find lead in products on store shelves, because a lot of attention was paid to lead in toys," Hitchcock said. "Parents can't just trust that every product on a store shelf is safe and free from excessive amounts of lead."

People who want to avoid the potential of lead in their children's toys should avoid buying certain types of toys, Hitchcock said. These include painted toys and inexpensive costume jewelry made out of metal.
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Loud toys. A new safety concern involves toys that could damage children's hearing.

ASTM (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials) has created standards that limit the noise made by most children's toys to 85 decibels. But U.S. PIRG found a number of toys that surpassed that limit. "If it seems too loud for the parent, it's certainly going to be too loud for the child," Hitchcock said.

Another type of toy -- one that many people rarely think of as a toy -- caused the most toy-related deaths and injuries in 2008, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Riding toys -- tricycles, bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, scooters and the like -- caused nine of the 19 reported deaths in 2008. They also accounted for 26 percent of the 172,700 toy-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments, more than any other type of toy, the agency said.

People who buy their child a riding toy need to buy the helmet, pads and other safety equipment necessary for safe use, Fleming stated.

"The complete gift includes all the safety gear," she said.

When shopping, parents can improve their chances of picking a safe toy by paying attention to the warning labels on toy packaging, Fleming and Hitchcock said.

The labels don't pertain to a child's aptitude. Rather, they take into account a wide range of developmental factors like dexterity and "mouthing behavior" to determine which toys pose a hazard to younger children.

"Always be a good label reader," Fleming said. "These labels are provided for safety."

SOURCES: Liz Hitchcock, public health advocate, U.S. PIRG, Washington, D.C.; Nychelle Fleming, spokeswoman, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Bethesda, Md.; Nov. 24, 2009, Trouble in Toyland report, U.S. PIRG Published on: December 10, 2009