Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Choking, Prevention of
Choking can be life-threatening. Choking on foods or other
objects kills as many children each year as accidental
poisonings. Follow these guidelines to help prevent your
child from choking.
- Do not give hard foods to children less than 4 years old.
Hard foods that could be sucked into the lungs when a
child takes a breath are nuts, sunflower seeds, orange
seeds, cherry pits, watermelon seeds, gum, hard candies,
popcorn, some corn chips, raw carrots, raw peas, and raw
celery. Children under the age of 4 years don't know
which foods they should spit out. They also need more
molar teeth to chew the other hard foods properly.
- Chop up dangerous soft foods before you serve them. Soft
foods that most commonly cause fatal choking by completely
blocking the windpipe are hot dogs, sausage, grapes, and
caramels (especially if a child is in a hurry).
- Warn baby sitters and older siblings not to share these
dangerous hard and soft foods with small children.
- Teach your child to chew all foods thoroughly before
- Don't allow your child to fill his cheeks with food like
- Clean up right away after parties. An especially
dangerous time is the morning after parties, when a
toddler may find dangerous foods on the floor.
- Warn your child never to chew or suck on pieces of rubber
balloons. Rubber balloons are the leading cause of
choking deaths resulting from objects other than foods.
Most incidents occur when a child suddenly inhales a
deflated balloon he has been chewing on. Even teenagers
have died from inhaling a deflated balloon. Chewing on an
inflated balloon is also dangerous because the balloon
could burst. Mylar helium balloons are safer than rubber
balloons, but rubber balloons are fine when they are used
- Don't give a young child a toy with small, detachable
parts. If you do, in a few minutes you'll find the
missing part in the child's mouth (unless he has already
- Periodically check your child's environment for small
objects that your child could choke on (anything with a
diameter less than 1.25 inch, or 3.2 cm). Ask older
children to protect younger siblings by checking the
carpet for small pieces from toys or games.
- Dispose of button batteries carefully.
- Remind your child not to run or play sports with gum or
other material in his mouth.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems