Babies and children under age 3 are particularly at risk.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the most common cause of nonfatal choking incidents is food, most commonly nuts, hot dogs, and chunks of fruit or vegetable. Most choking deaths in children age 3 and under are caused by toys and child products.
Every parent instinctively fears the possibility of being faced with a choking child. But what constitutes a choking hazard, and what can you do to protect your child against choking?
Choking on Food
Common food choking hazards include:
- Round food such as grapes and hard candy
- Firm food such as hot dogs and nuts
- Sticky food such as peanut butter and caramels
- Food your child might tend to want to cram into his mouth by the handful, like popcorn
Follow these safe eating tips from the CDC to protect your child from the hazards of choking on food.
Parents need to:
- Closely supervise their children at mealtime
- Cut firm or round food into thin strips or small pieces that can't become lodged in the child's airway
- Demonstrate safe and appropriate ways of chewing and eating to their children
- Learn infant and child CPR, and the Heimlich maneuver for children
Children should be taught to:
- Remain seated while eating
- Chew their food slowly and thoroughly
- Not talk or laugh with a mouth full of food
- Put only as much food into their mouths as they can comfortably chew
Choking on Toys/Household Items
Parents have to be vigilant about toys and items around the house. Close supervision, savvy, and organization is critical in preventing tragic incidents of choking. Educate yourself with these important tips from the CDC:
- Any toy that is small enough to fit through a 1-1/4-inch circle or is smaller than 2-1/4 inches long is unsafe for children under 4 years old.
- Parents should always be mindful of age recommendations on toy packages. Never allow your child to play with a toy intended for an older child.
- Older siblings should be taught to put their toys away and out of reach of younger siblings when not in use.
- Check under tables, sofa cushions, beds, and other similar locations to ensure there are no hidden hazards like coins or toy fragments your child could discover there.
- Never allow your child to play with uninflated or broken latex balloons. In fact, do not leave your child unattended with an intact balloon because it could pop and suddenly become a hazard without your being aware.
- Surprisingly, beanbag chairs made of tiny foam pellets pose a hazard if the bag rips and your child inhales the pellets. Don't let your child play on this type of chair.
These common household choke hazards should never be left within the reach of your child:
- Round watch batteries
- Pen or marker caps
- Small rubber toy car wheels
- Foam balls that compress small enough to fit in your child's mouth
- Plastic bottle caps
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.