Editor’s note: Following is a column submitted by HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls.

With the holiday and shopping season upon us, you may already be considering what toys to buy for the children on your list.

But before you make those purchases, HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals encourage you to check the safety and age-range of the toys.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2016 (the most recent data available) there were an estimated 240,000 toy-related injuries.

In 2017, toy recalls increased from the previous year, up from 24 to 28. The majority of the toy recalls announced last year involved ingestion and mechanical hazards.

The hospitals urge area residents to follow these tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and U.S. Public Interest Research Groups to ensure your child, grandchild, niece, nephew or neighbor is safe when playing with toys:

Make sure toys are age-appropriate. Check the label before buying, and toys for older children should be kept separate from toys for younger children.

Look for quality design and construction in all toys for all ages. Also make sure the toy would not cause injury it if happened to fall on your child.

Make sure all directions are clear and read all labels. Look for and follow recommendations and other safety warnings on toys and dolls.

Throw away packaging after the purchase or gift opening. Packaging can be a choking hazard. Children can suffocate on plastic bags and choke on peanut-style packaging.

Avoid choking hazards. Never give balloons or small balls to young children. Children three and younger shouldn’t be given toys with parts smaller than the opening of a toilet paper roll.

Don’t allow children to play with magnet toys. If swallowed, some magnets attract to each other internally, causing infection, blockage and ulcerations.

If it sounds too loud, it probably is. Some toys are loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss. Listen to toys before purchasing them.

Don’t allow children to play with long cords or strings. Long cords and strings are dangerous and can become wrapped around a child’s neck, causing strangulation.

Make sure toys don’t contain toxic chemicals. Awareness of toxic chemicals in toys has largely eradicated them from being used any longer, but it’s worth double checking before you buy — especially if your child is young and likely to put the toy in his or her mouth.

Contact: 715-833-9207, dan.holtz@ecpc.com