The older my kids get, the faster the holidays seem to come. One minute we're filling backpacks for the first day of school, and the next I'm trying not to eat their leftover Halloween candy. Well, not too much of it, anyhow.

And not long after trick-or-treating comes Hanukkah and Christmas, and if you're lucky, fantastic presents for your children (the best are the ones with an off switch for the lights and noises. I've been known to give toys that don't have off switches as payback, when the same is done to me).

One of the hardest parts of parenting is keeping your children safe, because there is so much we are expected to know. What is dangerous, and what is not? Hidden hazards are maddening, and I veer between feeling paranoid and feeling too lax about safety. The good news is, once you recognize a risky situation or object, you can prevent an injury.

A great example is button batteries. These are the tiny batteries you find in everything from your garage remote to a talking baby doll. The shiny texture and perfect round shape makes them especially appealing to children under age 5, who may put them in their mouth, nose, or ears. And they'll be in ever-so-many of the holiday presents you receive and give.

In the U.S. alone, there are 3,500 reported cases of button battery ingestion every year. If the battery is swallowed, it may get stuck in a child's esophagus and lead to a chemical burn that can cause serious medical complications. The batteries that are flat, and about the size of a nickel, are especially known for this.

So now you know about the hazard - what should you do?

First, store them in a safe place, out of a child's reach, where they won't be confused with pills or food.

Next, secure the toy or remote that contains the battery. Use strong tape to secure battery compartments. Choose well-made products, with battery compartments that require a tool to be opened. If the battery compartment comes loose or open, put it out of a child's reach. Never change the battery in front of small children.

If you notice a product is missing a battery, look for it immediately. And, if you think your child may have ingested a battery, take them to the emergency department right away.

Finally, talk to family and friends about the hazard. Some of my best parenting lessons have come from casual conversations with friends on the bleachers during basketball practice, or while waiting for the class musical to begin. In return, you may find yourself making a pact about never giving presents without off switches.

For more information about button battery safety, or other ways to keep your children safe, visit the Phoenix Children's Hospital website at www.phoenixchildrens.com and check out our Injury Prevention Center page. You can also follow us at http://twitter.com/kidsstaysafe or call (602) 933-0960.

• Tiffaney Isaacson is the injury prevention coordinator at Phoenix Children's Hospital. Reach her at (602) 546-1712.

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