Buying Second-Hand for Your Child? Make Sure It's Safe

From the Show: Healthy Children
Summary: Do you go to garage sales? What items are OK for you to buy for your kids? Are there some things you just shouldn't get second hand?
Air Date: 3/4/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Elizabeth Murray, MD
Murray Elizabeth DO 72webDr. Elizabeth Murray is a Physician specializing in Pediatric Emergency Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Upstate, NY. She graduated from Skidmore College with a BA in Economics and then, prior to medical school, she earned an MBA at the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business Administration. Upon completing her Residency training at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, she returned to her hometown of Rochester to complete her Fellowship in Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Strong Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Murray holds a dual appointments to both the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine and the Division of Prehospital Medicine at the University of Rochester. Additionally, she holds an appointment as Deputy Emergency Medical Services Medical Director for Monroe County and serves on the Regional EMS Council as the Pediatric Content Expert.

In 2013, Dr. Murray joined the Board of the Rochester Childfirst Network, an agency committed to providing high quality, early education to the children of Rochester. She is a member of the AAP’s Council on Communications and the Media and has previously written for their blog. In addition, she serves as a Spokesperson for the AAP.
Buying Second-Hand for Your Child? Make Sure It's Safe
If you're shopping garage sales and second-hand shops to save money on children's items, make sure they're safe.

When buying second-hand items, check for products that may have been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

When buying clothes, hoods and sweatshirts, make sure they have the drawstrings removed.

Find out the history of any car seat. If it’s been involved in an accident, don’t buy it.

Dr. Elizabeth Murray discusses these and other safety ideas when shopping for second-hand items.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Children | Original Air Date: March 4, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS

RadioMD. Hear it from the doctor with experts guests from the American Academy of Pediatrics. It's Healthy Children. Now, our favorite mom, Melanie Cole, MS.

MELANIE: I had some friends, when we all first started having babies that were like, "Look at this deal I got on this great stroller or this car seat. I got it at a garage sale down the way," and I looked it and went, "Whoa! I'm not putting my kid in that." You know, how do you know what you're buying at a garage sale for $5 is something that is safe for your children? That is possibly too old to be putting them in? It doesn't have the safety regulations.

My guest is Dr. Elizabeth Murray. She's a physician specializing in pediatric emergency medicine at the University of Rochester. Welcome to the show, Dr. Murray.

So, second-hand items and garage sale things—what shouldn't we buy? Let's start there. What just should you never buy?

DR. MURRAY: Well, yes, everybody loves a good deal, but we really want to avoid things that involve the safety of the child. So, car seats and things designed for sleep usually are the two big categories. Then, there are all sorts of things you wouldn't think about. There's lots of recalled items out there that we have to be careful for and we know things differently now. So, clothing with drawstrings on it on kids' sweatshirts, those things are not legal anymore, so there's actually a pretty big list and it's complicated. But, in general, the rule of thumb is things that involve the safety of the child. We want to get those products new or from a trusted source.

MELANIE: Okay, so car seats, strollers, these kinds of safety things, but what if you see somebody who says, "Oh, this was barely used. It's a Prego, it's something-- Prego," or whatever.


MELANIE: "Hmmm. But, it's such a good deal." How can you safety check those things or just steer clear?

DR. MURRAY: Well, in general, I would steer clear unless you know the person and you know what it's been through because a couple things people don't realize, especially when it comes to car seats is, first of all, they can expire. People don't really realize that. Second, if they've been involved in an accident, even if they don't have any obvious damage on them, we recommend they be replaced. Another important thing is whether a car seat is $40 or $400, if it's sold from a commercial store, it has to meet the same safety requirements.

So we all are tempted, a lot of times, to go for the bells and whistles and the fancy brand names, but from a safety standpoint, that $40 car seat is going to provide your child the same safety as the more expensive ones. So, sometimes that great deal of getting the brand name or the fancier name for less is not going to be the safest option because you might not necessarily know the history of that car seat.

MELANIE: One of the things that kind of freaks me out, Dr. Murray, is, I mean, we did buy bunk beds. Someone gave us their old bunk beds for a vacation home, and I'm kind of always concerned. I don't even like anybody sleeping up on the top. But, they look sturdy.

DR. MURRAY: Yes, they make me nervous even brand new.

MELANIE: See, even brand new they make me nervous. Brand new.

DR. MURRAY: Yes. Yes.

MELANIE: So, cribs and beds--what should we be looking for. I mean, you're in pediatric emergency medicine. Do the bunk bed tops really come down on a kid below?

DR. MURRAY: Well, they have to be installed correctly. So, you have to make sure that you have all the brackets and the hardware and everything is installed correctly. This is not a place to cut corners and say, "Oh, this is taking too much time." You know, you really need to do that, but you also have to make sure you understand the developmental expectations of the child. You know, a three-year-old might think it's tons of fun to be on that top bunk and even if it's installed correctly, the fall risk is great even if it's a simple fall from them trying to climb down appropriately on the ladder. So, you have to make sure that it's developmentally appropriate for the child. Then, of course, you have to make sure it's installed correctly with the proper hardware brackets, etc.—all of the stuff it comes with.

Cribs are a tricky matter because in the most recent guidelines, there was a big change that happened around 2011 with regard to the side panels of cribs. We might remember from long ago that you used to be able to slide the side of the cribs up and down. Those types of cribs are now illegal. So, you can certainly imagine a situation where somebody might be accidently trying to sell that at a garage sale or second-hand. So, you want to make sure you have the most current guidelines and the easiest way is to use the Consumer Product Safety Commission website. They have a website where you can search for any specific object and they can give you the information on recalls, what the current guidelines are and what products are safe.

MELANIE: Okay. I know we've talked a lot about safety and that is oh, so important with strollers and car seats and beds and cribs, bunk beds. What about clothes? You know, a lot of hand-me-down clothes go around. Is there anything that you want parents to know if they're going to get second-hand clothes or gently used clothes from friends? "Here's a bag of clothes my kid doesn't wear any more."

DR. MURRAY: Sure. So, the simple things that, again, I think we forget about, but drawstrings on clothing. Those are not allowed because of the concern of a strangulation risk. You know, if that drawstring got stuck on something and the child couldn't get themselves free or, heaven forbid, it wraps around the child's neck.

The other thing you have to watch out for sometimes are some of the decorations that have been applied to the shirts or the pants, whether it's a metal based product and you're not sure if lead, potentially, is involved or can they become dislodged and come off and present a choking hazard to the child. So, you want to make sure that those clothes are certainly intact and are really in almost a new condition, but those other things, you need to watch out for. The drawstrings are the main ones and different types of metal closures that might be too old and, therefore, not meeting the current guidelines. Something within a season or two of being new, then you're probably going to be just fine with regards to the metals, but it's the older hand-me-downs that you have to worry about.

MELANIE: Yes, the older ones, too. I mean, always, it's just common sense to wash clothes before you let your children wear some of those second-hand clothes to make sure that they're clean.


MELANIE: That there's no lice or anything stuck in there. You know? I mean, really.

DR. MURRAY: Now, I'm itching thinking about that. Alright.

MELANIE: I know. I know. At least, we're not sending that letter around, right? So, are there some things that you would advise that it's okay to buy second-hand for your kids? Certain toys, like big Lego blocks, things that you say, "Oh, yes. I would buy those. I would absolutely get those at a garage sale for my kids."

DR. MURRAY: Yes. You're right. Legos are a good point. Something that you can clean easily and something that's made from a material you trust. You know, something that's all wooden, a nice, classic, all wooden toy. You want to avoid things that might have paint or chipping paint because, again, the lead risk, but the old high quality wooden toys are going to be just fine. Quality when it comes to simple t-shirts, shorts, pants and sweatshirts are going to be okay. Sometimes you have to be careful with the homemade blankets and such, especially if they're crocheted. The might have the bigger holes that a child could get fingers or things stuck in them and kind of get themselves tangled up in a blanket, so you need to watch out for that.

There are other ones that don't have to do with the safety of the child. Chairs, little desks and tables for children to use. Those types of things are usually going to be just fine. Bicycles, actually, often can be fine, too, as long as they're in good working condition.

MELANIE: So, that was going to be my next question was sporting equipment, bicycles, things like that--even helmets. You know, people put these things out on their driveway for garage sales. You go and you're like, "Oh, cool." You know? A nice bicycle with a helmet going with it. Do we not like to do it like that with bicycles? Tell us about all those things.

DR. MURRAY: Bicycles are usually going to be okay. Again, as long as they look to be in fine working condition, there's nothing obviously bent or damaged on them. The same is true for tricycles or the toddler type of bicycles/trikes. Helmets are a safety thing and, you know, a helmet is kind of a car seat for your head, if you will, and so, I look at them the same as I look at car seats. That's something that you want to get new. You want to make sure that it has the label in it saying that it's a certified product from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. You want to know that you know the history of it because maybe there is a teeny little crack in there that you can't see because this bicycle helmet has already been in an accident. That decreases the integrity of it and puts the new wearer at risk.

MELANIE: In just the last minute and a half, Dr. Murray, give us your best advice about buying second-hand items and what you want parents to know when they're out and about garage sale-ing and looking at these great deals and really making that decision, "Should I or shouldn't I?"

DR. MURRAY: I think you need to look for the regulations in your area because some towns and communities are going to have rules about what can be sold and, in general, stay away from items that are meant for safety. You can get high quality car seats and things for a very reasonable price. Safety is going to always be so important and you want to make sure that you check any recall list. Easy places to look are the Consumer Products Safety Commission,, or You can search any item to make sure that it is current.

MELANIE: And, that website, again, if you want really good, up to date information on these things, is

You're listening to Healthy Children with our friends from the American Academy of Pediatrics right here on RadioMD. If you missed any of the great information, you can listen any time on demand or on the go.

This is Melanie Cole. Stay well.
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