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Choking Prevention in Small Children

Topic Overview

Young children can easily choke on food and everyday objects. You can help prevent your child from choking by offering the right kinds of foods and watching for choking hazards.

Food

Watching how your child eats can also help prevent choking. Teach your child to eat only in the kitchen and dining room. Be sure that your child sits down while eating and that he or she chews carefully. Don't force your child to eat when he or she isn't hungry. These practices also help your child to develop healthy eating habits.

To prevent your child from choking, use care when you select and prepare food. Do not give round, firm foods to children younger than age 4 unless the food is chopped completely.1 Foods that can be choking hazards include:

  • Seeds (for example, sunflower or watermelon).
  • Nuts.
  • Popcorn.
  • Hot dogs.
  • Chunks of peanut butter.
  • Raw vegetables.
  • Raisins.
  • Whole grapes.
  • Chunks of meat or cheese.
  • Hard or sticky candy.
  • Chewing gum.
  • Fruit chunks, such as apple chunks.

Prepare food for young children in ways that reduce their risk of choking. Learn to safely prepare:

  • Fruit with skins or pits, such as apples or apricots. Remove pits and peel fruits before giving them to your child. Fruits can also be diced or cooked and mashed.
  • Fish or chicken with bones. Carefully cut the meat off the bone and then into small pieces. Check meat thoroughly for any signs of bones.
  • Peanut butter. A spoonful of peanut butter can block the windpipe. Peanut butter can also stick to the lining of the throat and windpipe, making a child unable to breathe. Only allow peanut butter that is spread thinly on a slice of bread or a cracker.
  • Hot dogs and sausages. Slice and dice these meats. You may want to remove the skin before cutting them.
  • Grapes. Peel and mash grapes before serving.
  • Beans (green, string, lima, kidney, and others the size of a marble or larger). Mash before serving.
  • Peas. Although peas are small individually, a child who eats more than one pea at a time may choke.
  • Whole carrots. A child may break off too big a bite and choke. Cook carrots and cut them into smaller pieces, or cut raw carrots into thin slices.

Don't allow your child to eat while he or she is walking, running, riding in a car, or playing.

Toys and other objects

Teach your child not to put objects in his or her mouth. The following objects may cause choking in young children.

  • Toys, such as:
    • Jacks, marbles, and marble-sized balls
    • Latex balloons, either uninflated or broken pieces. Balloons are easily inhaled into the windpipe.
    • Those with small detachable parts, like wheels
  • Household objects, such as:
    • Rubber bands
    • Coins
    • Adhesive bandages
    • Buttons
    • Beads and other jewelry
    • Thumbtacks and screws
    • Paper clips, pen tops, and safety pins
    • Clothing price tags
    • Small holiday decorations
  • Kitchen items, such as:
    • Eggshells
    • Bottle caps
    • Plastic tabs from protective coverings on containers

Test small objects by passing them through a toilet-paper tube. If they fit inside, they could become lodged in the throat of a young child.

References

Citations

  1. Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Policy statement: Prevention of choking among children. Pediatrics, 125(3): 601–607. Also available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/3/601.full.

Other Works Consulted

  • Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Policy statement: Prevention of choking among children. Pediatrics, 125(3): 601–607. Also available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/3/601.full.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Current as of January 22, 2013

Current as of: January 22, 2013

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