Choking Hazards and Your Baby

Babies and children under age 4 are particularly at risk.

10 Surprising Choking Hazards for Babies and Toddlers

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, choking is a lead cause of injury among children 4 and younger. The most common cause of nonfatal choking incidents is food, most commonly hard candy, meats, and bones. Other high-risk foods include hot dogs, seeds, and nuts, which cause choking that's more likely to require hospitalization. The AAP also found that boys account for just more than half of all choking cases (55%).

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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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
Baby boy with hand in his mouth

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:

  • Coins
  • Marbles
  • 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
  • Buttons
  • Plastic bottle caps

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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