Child Safety - Miller & Zois

Choking Hazards

As children begin to grow and learn about the world around them, it's only natural for parents to want to encourage their natural curiosity. However, it is equally important that they do so in a safe environment, which isn't always easy when you're trying to keep up with a toddler. There are all sorts of ways that little children could accidentally hurt themselves, especially when it involves food, toys, and small objects that are considered choking hazards.

According to Nationwide Children's Hospital, a choking hazard is defined as any object that could get caught in a child's throat and block their airway, making it difficult for the child to breathe properly. This could mean anything from a piece of food to a small object or toy part.

The New York State Department of Health states that choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death in children under the age of five, which is the age group that is most at-risk for choking injury and death. Although choking hazards are, understandably, a huge concern for parents of toddlers and young children, there are several steps that can be taken by parents to reduce the risk of a child's exposure to these hazards.

Food Safety

The most common cause of nonfatal choking in young children is the food that they eat. Many children aren't as careful as they should be when they are eating and chewing their food, so it is important for parents to monitor not only what kinds of foods their children are eating, but how they are eating as well. A lot of times children won't chew their food well and try to swallow it whole, and in this case the most dangerous foods are round and hard.

Choking InfographicThe Center for Disease Control lists several common foods that can potentially pose a risk of choking in young children, some of which include:

  • Whole corn kernels
  • Uncut cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Hard pieces of raw fruits or vegetables
  • Tough or large chunks of meat
  • Large chunks of cheese
  • Hard candy, jellybeans, caramels, or gummies
  • Potato and corn chips
  • Crackers and breads that contain seeds, nuts, or whole grain kernels
  • Chewing gum
  • Marshmallows

Since your child is young and still learning how to chew and swallow properly, it is important to pay close attention to their eating habits and what they are putting in their mouth. Even the way that their food is prepared can increase the risk of choking - sometimes, foods that are served raw, whole, or in certain shapes can be a hazard. To avoid any increase in the risk of choking, you should take extra time to prepare your child's snacks and do things like cutting the food into smaller, bite-sized pieces.

To further monitor your child's food safety, Nemours Children's Health System further suggests that parents make sure to encourage their kids to sit upright when eating, while also teaching them to finish chewing thoroughly and swallowing their food before talking or laughing. Furthermore, children should never be eating food while they are running, playing, or riding in the car, and parents should always be sure to read food manufacturer's labels to better determine choking risks.

Small Parts Safety

Food is by no means the only choking hazard that children are exposed to, especially as children begin to become mobile and crawl around the house. There are all sorts of choking hazards that they could potentially get their hands on, and it is only natural for babies and toddlers to experiment with new objects by putting them right in their mouths, like:

Before your child begins to crawl around the house, it is important to make sure that you've made your home a safe environment free of any potentially reachable choking hazards. Nationwide Children's Hospital suggests that in order to safe proof your homes you need to get down on your child's level and look for things that could be picked up, as well as checking in and under the furniture for any small pieces. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also encourages parents to keep small objects off the floor as well, such as marbles, balloons, small balls, and coins.

Additionally, you can lower the risk of your child choking by making sure that toys are always put away safely, as well as storing younger children's toys separately from toys meant for older children. Toys are meant to be fun and educational for children, and with proper awareness parents can ensure the safety of their kids from the potential dangers that some toys present.

What Should I do if my Child is Choking?

Even though there are plenty of precautions that we can take to make sure our children are safe from these various choking hazards, accidents can still happen, so it's equally important for parents to be aware of what they should do in the event that their child is choking.

The best course of action to take if an emergency does occur is to immediately call 911, as time is of the essence in the event of an obstructed airway. Parents can also prepare themselves for a worst-case scenario by completing a course to become CPR certified and learning how to take action in the event of a choking incident.

If your child is choking, you might need to try using the Heimlich maneuver. Follow these steps:

  • With the child in the upright position, bend the child forward while holding the child with one hand at the waist.
  • With your free hand, give the child 5 back blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
  • If the object is not dislodged, put both hands together making a fist at the child's abdomen.
  • Place your fist right above the child's bellybutton.
  • Then use fast, short motions to thrust inward and upward giving 5 quick abdominal thrusts. Don't lift the child off the floor while doing this.
  • Continue 5 sets of back blows followed by 5 abdominal thrusts until the objects is dislodged, the child can cough and breath, the child becomes unconscious, or help arrives.