Choking happens when a child’s airway gets blocked. Since a child’s airway is small, it can be obstructed more easily than an adult’s. According to New York’s Department of Health, choking is the fourth leading cause of accidental death in young children. While it can be terrifying, it is preventable. See 6 ways to prevent children from choking below.
What Can Children Choke On?
Babies usually chew on anything they can lay their hands on. They can choke on anything from too tiny toys to large bites of food. See a list below
- household items like beads, coins, small batteries, small magnets, the tops of pens and markers, and jewellery
- Toys and toy parts
- Food like Whole uncut round fruits i.e berries, apples, uncooked carrots, Sticky chewy foods like peanuts, candy, gummy bears or sweets, peas, pieces of meat (including chicken and fish and bone), nuts, shells or seeds (including popcorn kernels), hot dogs and sausages
- Water or Milk
- Button batteries
- Any other small items
5 Ways To Prevent Children From Choking
1. Supervise mealtime
Children can choke on the items listed above especially if they are left unsupervised. It is important that they sit quietly while eating. If they are lying down, jumping, playing or eating while running, the chance that food will end up in the windpipe is high. If you sit with your child while he/she eats, and talk to or entertain them, they will be less tempted to get up and run around.
In addition, encourage your child to chew food well and not rush. Teaching your child to chew and swallow properly will reduce her risk of choking.
2. Do not introduce hard foods too early
Remember to keep food pieces small. Hard, round, rubbery or sticky foods should not be given to children before age four. If at all you will like to serve some particular fruits or vegetables; Cook things that are hard, to make them softer – like raw apples, carrots or veggies. Also, cut foods lengthwise to make a long skinny piece. Here’s a rule of thumb by Kids Eat In Colour:⠀
- Cut in 1/8s (and grind seeds & nuts) for age 1. Think 1/2 a pinky finger size.⠀
- Quarter (and smash seeds & nuts) for age 2⠀
- Half (or slivered nut pieces) for age 3⠀
- Most kids are fine to eat unmodified food at or after age 4⠀
When feeding kids peanut butter, be sure to spread it thinly. In addition, children can usually eat nuts safely at around five years of age, unless they have an allergy. Do watch out for allergic reactions to any food.
3. Keep toys or harmful materials away
When we say harmful materials, we are referring to latex balloons, coins, jewellery, small magnets, button-style batteries out of reach. Take note of age recommendations on toys with small parts, and when in doubt, try the toilet roll test: If an object fits through, it’s a potential choking hazard. Also, avoid toys with small parts, breakable parts or brittle surfaces. Check toys for exposed stuffing and loose screws and buttons. Avoid buying toys with button batteries.
4. Inspect play areas
Curiosity leads children to put things into their mouths. Check the floor for small objects by getting down to child height and looking around particularly underneath the couch cushions. Sweep and vacuum frequently, and encourage older siblings to keep their little toys out of reach.
5. Reinforce rules
Ensure caregivers know your food safety rules and follow them. Always remind them to follow the safety tips above especially to supervise children at all times. Also, Older children should follow table manners to avoid choking i.e do not talk while eating.
6. Finally, communicate with your child! Explain to children why things are unsafe. This might seem like a joke because we might feel that children are too young to understand. However, simple statements such as “we only put food in our mouth” or “do not put that in your mouth, it will hurt” will go a long way. Children will eventually understand.
We can never be too careful but we can be adequately prepared. It is advisable to be prepared if choking does happen. Learn what to do if your child accidentally chokes here. Remember, the first rule is usually, Do not panic!
Do you have any other tips, share with us.