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The Informed Parent

Choking Prevention

by Lori A. Livingston, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Oct. 10, 2011

Choking is the leading cause of unintentional injury that results in death for children younger than one year of age. It is the fourth cause of death of children one-to-nine years of age, surpassed only by car accidents, drowning and burns.  Food, coins, and small toys are the most common items children choke on.

The most common foods associated with fatal choking are:

  • hot dogs
  • hard candy
  • nuts
  • grapes
  • meat
  • cookies and biscuits
  • carrots
  • apples
  • popcorn
  • peanut butter

Foods that are small, smooth, or slick when wet may accidentally slip into the airway. Objects that are round and compressible such as hot dogs and grapes can easily form a plug in the airway. Children who are not sitting while eating are at much higher risk for choking.

Non-food items can also be a choking hazard. Any item that fits through a toilet paper tube is a potential choking hazard. The most common ones are:

  • rubber balloons (a leading cause of choking deaths)
  • small toys
  • pen caps
  • small balls
  • marbles
  • toy jewelry
  • magnets
  • coins
  • disc batteries

How can parents prevent choking?

  • Avoid the most common foods that cause choking until at least age four, or be sure the foods are cut into smaller pieces.
  • Supervise children while they are eating, especially toddlers and preschoolers.
  • Discourage playing while eating.
  • Keep small toys, foods, and household items out of reach.

Lastly, parents and caregivers should have basic CPR and choking resuscitation training in case of emergency. Call your local Red Cross or hospital for classes.

Resource: AAP News April 2011

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