Protect Your Kids from Choking

Watch them around food!

Children CookingCredit:

One of the most terrifying events a parent can experience is watching their child choking.  No matter how organized and clean we are, our homes are full of choking hazards for children.  I still remember sitting in church one Sunday morning when one of my daughters was two; suddenly, a church nursery worker came running into the sanctuary screaming that there was a toddler choking.  All the mothers rushed to the nursery, and I was horrified to discover that my young daughter had a piece of hard candy caught in her throat and she was starting to turn blue.  The nursery worker had given each of the children the candy as a reward for picking up their toys.  One of the other mothers was reaching into my daughter’s mouth when I arrived, and managed to dislodge the candy with her long fingernail.  My child’s throat was scratched and was sore for a few days, but she was otherwise unharmed.  Other children have not been so fortunate.

Our daughter’s situation is not a rarity.  According to the New York State Department of Health, choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death in children under the age of 5.  Although toys, household items and food can all be choking hazards, food is the most common cause.  One child dies from choking on food every five days in the United States, and over 10,000 children go the emergency room every year because they choked on food.

These are frightening statistics.  If you want to prevent your child from choking, what are some of the precautions you should take?

Food is a Common Choking Hazard for Children

Surprisingly, food is the most common cause of baby and toddler choking.  Parents and other care givers need to watch young children while they eat, and make sure that their food has been cut into small pieces.  Sometimes children will put a lot of their favorite foods into their mouths at once.  Discourage this behavior by only giving them small quantities of food at a time.  Another way to prevent toddler choking is to avoid foods like nuts, chips, popcorn and raw vegetables until they are older.  Soft, cooked food is safer because it is less like to cause choking.  Hot dogs, in particular, have been a frequent cause of toddler choking because they are almost the perfect size to block an airway.  Avoid giving cut up hot dog pieces to young children.  In fact, according to a website called, the top ten foods that are most likely to cause choking in children are: hot dogs, nuts, fish bones, apples, meat chunks, carrots, popcorn, hard candy, chicken and chicken bones, and seeds such as sunflower seeds.  They also report that about 78% of all choking injuries happen in children under the age of four.  That is why it is so important for an adult to stay nearby and observe children while they eat!

Toys Can Cause Toddler and Infant Choking

Many toys have small parts that cause children to choke.  For example, if you give your infant a stuffed animal with button eyes, your baby could suck on the button eyes until they become loose and the infant chokes.  These types of stuffed animals are very dangerous.  However, they are not the only dangerous toys for children.  Construction toys, doll outfits, and games with tiny parts can also become choking hazards.  Buy large toys that are designed for your baby, and read the labels carefully.  Toy manufacturers are required to label toys that have small parts that could present a choking risk.  Keep infants and toddlers away from toys that belong to their older brothers and sisters.

Common Household Items Can Cause Choking

 Keep small objects such as beads, buttons, coins, jewelry, hobby items, etc. away from kids.  I know from experience that protecting your child may be especially difficult if you have older children in the household, as well.  However, even we adults have unintentionally left things out that could become choking hazards.  Children have been known to choke on the caps to pens or markers, button type batteries, screws, rings, earrings, crayons, erasers, small stones, and holiday decorations.  Although it may prove difficult at times, make sure any small household items are put away, thrown away or kept out of the hands of tiny children.

Symptoms of Choking in Children

According to, a child who is choking may appear to panic and wave their arms around.  They could also grab their neck or throat.  In addition, they could appear to have trouble breathing, and could begin coughing or gagging.  They may also develop bluish colored lips or skin.

Emergency Treatment for Choking in Children also explains that if the child is able to cry, cough or make sounds, the airway is only partially blocked.  As the child continues to cough and gag, they may be able to dislodge the blockage by themselves.  On the other hand, if they cannot make any sound, or only a very high-pitched sound such as wheezing, or if their skin and lip color begins to turn bluish, they may have a complete blockage and need immediate medical attention.  Call 911 or your local emergency number and use the Heimlich maneuver, if you have been trained.  The emergency operator will also give you instructions while you are waiting for the paramedics to arrive.  Even if you are able to successfully dislodge the object before the paramedics get there, do not be embarrassed about calling them.  If you did not call, and were not able to dislodge the object, your child could die or be seriously impaired by the lack of oxygen.

If you are interested in reading more about family fun and safety for young children, you may be interested in the articles listed below:

How to Make Homemade Playdough Crafts

How to Enjoy Teaching Children to Cook

Fire Safety Tips for the Home

Preventing Death and Injury in Children


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