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posted: 9/17/2017 7:30 AM

To fidget spin or not to fidget spin?

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  • A pedestrian demonstrates a fidget spinner at a street vendor stand in New York. The fidget spinner is a toy that sits like a propeller on a person's finger, with blades that spin around a bearing.

    A pedestrian demonstrates a fidget spinner at a street vendor stand in New York. The fidget spinner is a toy that sits like a propeller on a person's finger, with blades that spin around a bearing.
    Photo by Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

  • Dr. Erik L. Johnson

    Dr. Erik L. Johnson

 
By Dr. Erik L. Johnson
Amita Health

Some light up. Some play music. All spin in a mesmerizing way. But do fidget spinners -- the kid craze of 2017 -- have health benefits, or are they a health hazard?

Some retailers have claimed that spinners have health benefits, such as easing stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

A recent article by Forbes contributor Bruce Y. Lee explored the science behind the allure of spinners and found that:

• Fidgeting may prevent your mind from being occupied by obsessive and unhealthy thoughts.

• Body movements are actually part of the thinking and expression process.

• Fidgeting serves as a ritual. Rituals can offer comforting predictability, familiarity and structure that may be relatively absent in real life.

So a fidget spinner can't hurt if you have a fidgety child, right?

Well, maybe.

It turns out that spinners also might be hazardous to your child's health.

A consumer watchdog group, World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc., reported this summer that the spinners can fall apart, and their small pieces can be swallowed, creating a choking hazard.

Because of this risk, spinners led the Boston-based group's list of 10 top "summer safety traps" for kids. Warning that spinners have the potential to lead to tragic or deadly consequences, the group cautioned parents and caregivers not to be lulled into a false sense of security that a toy is safe simply because it is popular.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has been investigating reported choking incidents involving spinners and children up to age 14. In May, a 10-year-old Texas girl underwent surgery to remove a spinner piece from her esophagus.

There also have been reports of fires involving battery-operated spinners. No one has died in any of these incidents.

In light of these incidents and warnings, I have been talking with parents and caregivers of my young patients to emphasize to them the importance of safety when playing with spinners.

CPSC has issued the following safety tips regarding spinner use:

• Keep spinners away from children under 3 years of age.

• Warn children of all ages not to put spinners or small pieces of spinners in their mouths or to play with spinners near their faces. Spinners have batteries and other small pieces that can be a choking hazard.

• Be present when products with batteries are charging, and never charge a product with batteries overnight when you are sleeping.

• Always use either the charging cable that came with your spinner, or a charging cable with the correct connections for your spinner.

• Unplug your spinner immediately after it is fully charged.

• Make sure you have working smoke alarms in your home.

Spinners can be fun -- and might even have some benefits -- but make sure safety comes first when kids are playing with these popular toys.

• Children's Health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Dr. Erik L. Johnson, who is a pediatrician with the Amita Health Medical Care Group, a more than 500-member employed provider group in 138 locations across the West and Northwest Chicago suburbs. Amita Health is comprised of nine acute and specialty care hospitals, including Amita Health Alexian Brothers Women and Children's Hospital Hoffman Estates. For more information on pediatric programs, visit www.amitahealth.org

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