According to British research, the average 10-year-old owns around 238 toys, yet only plays with 12 on a daily basis. Often, the hottest, trendiest toys will get the most use — at least, while they’re still en vogue. Without a doubt, one of the most popular toys of the past year or two is the ubiquitous fidget spinner. But even though these gadgets are thought to help children with autism or ADHD, they might actually pose a hidden danger to young spinners.
The last thing any parent wants is to discover a toy meant for their child’s amusement could actually be a hazard. But that’s what a paper recently published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition alleges. The paper’s authors, Dr. Racha Khalaf and Dr. Yoseph Gurevich, point out that some spinners have light-up features that require batteries. That can and has presented a huge problem for the children who have used these toys.
The paper cites two separate cases wherein children, aged three and four years, ended up swallowing the batteries contained in their fidget spinners after the devices broke. One child swallowed the spinner’s central cap disc, which contained a battery, while the other swallowed a battery when it broke free from the broken spinner.
Both events resulted in serious esophageal burns for the children in question. In one case, emergency surgery and a three-week hospital stay was required. While emergency department visits have increased in the U.S. by 22% over the last decade alone, no parent ever expects that a simple toy could do so much damage.
Lithium batteries are contained in countless household devices and are recognized to be a health concern when swallowed. Typically, children’s toys are made in ways that safeguard the batteries, but because fidget spinners aren’t really made for young children, they don’t have these childproofing measures in place. According to the National Capital Poison Center, reported cases like these have increased in recent years, especially when button batteries are involved. Because they look a bit like candy, young children might be more inclined to swallow them; the larger versions can easily get stuck in a small child’s throat and lead to serious complications.
But it’s not just the batteries that are the problem. A second paper published in that same journal detailed two other cases that resulted in serious injury when children swallowed pieces of fidget spinners that didn’t even contain batteries. Emergency surgery was required to resolve these cases, as well.
Dr. Athos Bousvaros and Dr. Paul Rufos from Boston’s Children’s Hospital, who wrote the second paper with commentary to medical professionals, wrote in a journal news release: “Having an unlabeled button battery in a toy or product that children can handle and break poses a potential danger to children.”
Boys may be nearly twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ADHD, but it’s evident from these cases that fidget spinners aren’t a completely safe way to occupy young children of any gender. In addition, there’s also no definitive proof that they even help to reduce the negative effects of such conditions. But even if you yourself use them for stress relief and think there’s no harm in letting your child take a spin, you might want to think twice. To be on the safe side, experts recommend parents keep fidget spinners away from young children. Since the Consumer Product Safety Commission has already recognized the potential dangers associated with these toys, the papers’ authors hope that it won’t be long before better consumer protections are put in place. And in the meantime, consider substituting these gadgets with toys that can’t be broken or — better yet — don’t even contain batteries at all.