Preventing choking in children

CHOKING HAPPENS WHEN food or other objects become stuck in the upper airway or windpipe,
preventing the child from breathing effectively. Because children under age 5 often put small objects into their
mouth and are still learning to chew properly, they’re at a higher risk for choking and death than adults. Being
aware of common choking hazards and protecting young children from them can help prevent injury.

What are some common choking hazards?

Food, coins, and toys are common causes of chokingrelated injuries in children.
Food that can get stuck in a child’s airway include:
• hot dogs
• popcorn
• hard candy
• chunks of peanut butter
• nuts
• ice cubes
• potato chips
• cheese cubes
• pretzel nuggets
• marshmallows
• dried fruits
• caramels
• seeds
• fish with bones
• whole grapes
• cough drops
• raw vegetables
• chewing gum
• fruits with skins
• sausages.

Nonfood items that children can choke on include:
• latex balloons
• staples
• balls
• safety pins
• marbles
• small stones
• pen or marker caps
• coins
• batteries
• buttons
• screws
• stuffing (from pillows or rings bean bag chairs)
• crayons
• earrings
• erasers
• round toys or toy parts.

How can I keep my child safe from choking hazards?

Never leave a small child alone when eating; an adult should always be present. Make sure children sit up
straight and aren’t distracted while eating. Don’t let children eat when they’re walking, lying down, riding in a
car, or playing.

Before giving food to a child, cut it into small pieces and remove any seeds or pits. Cut hot dogs lengthwise
and widthwise. Teach children to chew their food carefully before swallowing. Give them liquids to drink between
mouthfuls, but make sure they don’t swallow liquids and solids at the same time. Give infants food that
doesn’t need to be chewed.

Make sure your children play with age-appropriate toys. Toy manufacturers are required to put chokinghazard warning labels on their products, but not all of them do. To check if a toy or part of a toy is too small,
you can buy a small parts tester at a toy store or use an empty toilet paper roll, which is just slightly larger than
a small parts tester. If the toy fi ts easily into the tester or roll, it’s a potential choking hazard and should be kept
away from children.

Regularly check your children’s toys for broken parts that may be swallowed. Immediately throw away any damaged or dangerous toys. Since choking on a latex balloon is a leading cause of choking death in children,
clean up right after parties. Store small objects such as batteries and buttons out of your child’s reach.
Become familiar with lifesaving techniques such as child CPR and the Heimlich maneuver in case your
child chokes on food or another object so you can take immediate action.