ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
Naprapathy: A Hands-On Approach to Pain Management
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Using a Balloon to Repair a Broken Back
Returning to the Road Tricky After Injury
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
CANCER
Gene Screen May Predict Colon Cancer's Return
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
Wristbands May Lessen Nausea After Radiation
CAREGIVING
Depression, PTSD Common Among Lung Transplant Patient Caregivers
Study Links Pesticides to Birth Defects
Transition From Home to Hospital Rarely Seamless
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
Support Network May Play Role in Benefits of Drinking
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
COSMETIC
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
DIABETES
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
Drug May Not Help Diabetes-Related Eye Damage
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
DIET, NUTRITION
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
Successful Weight Loss Shows Unique Brain Patterns
Eating Less May Slow Aging Process
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Database Helps Assess Your Breast Cancer Risk
Topical Drugs May Pollute Waterways
Improved Fungicides May Be Easier on Environment
EYE CARE, VISION
Brain Adapts to Age-Related Eye Disease
Gene-Transfer Proves Safe for Vision Problem
Statin Drugs Cause Eye Disorders
FITNESS
Basketball Star Details His Struggle With Gout
Fall Cleanup Is a Prime Time for Accidents
School Phys. Ed. Injuries Up 150 Percent
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
GENERAL HEALTH
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
Even Young Kids Can Learn CPR
Parents Influence Sex Decisions, Hispanic Teens Say
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Fish Oil Supplements Help With Heart Failure
Years of Heavy Smoking Raises Heart Risks
Relaxation Tapes or Mozart Lower Blood Pressure
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Standard IQ Test May Underestimate People With Autism
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
MEN'S HEALTH
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
MENTAL HEALTH
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
Meditation May Boost College Students' Learning
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
SENIORS
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
Protein Deposits May Show Up Before Memory Problems Occur, Study Says
Nighttime Urination Linked to Higher Death Rate Among Elderly
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Omega-3 May Reduce Endometriosis Risk
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
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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