Healthy Tips For Buying Secondhand

by Dr. Jim Sears

In this economy, it just makes sense to purchase secondhand. From furniture to football equipment, families across the country are using sites like Craigslist and eBay to purchase what they need. Sometimes, though, "buyer beware" may be more important to consider than others - some secondhand items can bring hazards. Dr. Jim Sears of ABC's The Doctors  shared some of his tips for buying secondhand safely.

·        Mattress – It is common knowledge that mattresses have a lifespan of eight years, after which they lose their support.  But even “younger” used mattresses can bring with them bed bugs or major allergens like pet dander.  If you must buy used, buy from a friend who will tell you the actual age and history of the bed.

·        Cribs – Recent changes by the U.S. Consumer Protection Commission have outlawed the sale of drop-side cribs in retail stores, but they're all over "buy it used" sites like Craigslist. Drop-side cribs have contributed to the deaths of at least 36 children since 2007, the majority due to faulty hardware or gaps between the mattress and furniture. If you have to buy used, make sure that it's safe, but there are a number of convertible cribs, available at retailers like Target and Walmart, that are very inexpensive. 

·        Sporting Equipment – Sporting goods can be very costly, so it’s great to buy used equipment; it is in your best interest to buy from specialty discount stores, as they are much more selective in the equipment they resell.  Helmets that have been in an accident should never be used again, so do not buy secondhand helmets, as you can never be sure of their “history.”

·        Clothing – As quickly as young children grow, buying secondhand clothes is a lifesaver for many families. With children's consignment shops and even delivery services popping up across the country, it's smart to consider secondhand clothing for your little ones. To be safe, though, wash any clothing in hot water after bringing it home to kill any nasty little bugs, and be sure that any coats or other winter wear are made from flame-retardant material. 

·        Car Seat – Just like helmets, car seats should be tossed after being in just one accident.  Unfortunately, 10% of car seats that have been in an accident are still being used.  A new car seat costs only $50 and is definitely worth saving your child’s life.  If you do buy used, buy from a friend, and be sure to disinfect.

·        Toys – Buying toys is often neverending. Throw multiples and kids at different ages into the mix and you've got an expensive predicament. Used toys, especially those for little ones, can be purchased very cheaply at consignment stores, online, and through clothing and toy sales. It's smart, though, to wash any stuffed toys in hot water and stay away from any that can't be thrown in the washing machine. Plastic toys can be disinfected in the bathtub after bringing them home, but toys that have electrical wiring or motors should be thoroughly inspected before bringing them home. Any toys for small children should be checked for loose small parts, sharp edges, or other hazards.

·        Shoes – Buying used shoes can be difficult.  Sports shoes in particular really mold to your feet, and buying used means that you will be forced into someone else’s mold, which can create bad alignment and subsequent knee, hip and back pain.  Plus, avid runners should be replacing their shoes every 3 months!  If you do buy used (or even if you don’t) it’s essential to disinfect.  Sterishoe uses UV light to kill germs like Athlete’s foot.

·        Baby Items – Babies need a LOT of stuff and it's not cheap - that's no secret. When buying secondhand for your baby, consider the age, quality, and the seller. If you're purchasing a changing table or bassinet, make sure that it is sturdy and clean. Most toys for babies can be disinfected, but stay away from stuffed animals as they can carry allergens and germs. When it comes to strollers and other "big-ticket" baby items, make sure the deal isn't too good to be true - check for safety options and the integrity of all parts. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the item. 

·        Vacuum – Using an old vacuum, even a high-quality machine with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, can spew out skin cells and dust mites and leak more allergens into the air.  Splurge on a new vacuum!