Choking is a leading cause of injury and death among children in America, especially children 4 years old or younger. Recent studies have shown that a child dies from choking on food every five days in the United States. An additional 10,000 children are hospitalized annually due to injuries related to choking on food. Obviously these statistics are immensely concerning for parents with infant or toddler-aged children. We at Children’s Wellness Center know this and so we’ve taken the time to deliver some basic knowledge on the subject in an attempt to lessen the chances of such an incident occurring in your home. Below we have provided a series of warning signs of choking, as well as especially dangerous foods for young children to avoid and tips for how to react to a choking situation in case one should ever occur.
Signs Your Child May be Choking
- Child is unable to breathe
- Child is gasping for air or wheezing
- Child is unable to talk, cry or make noise
- Child appears panicked or flushed
- Child turns blue in the face
- Child grabs at his or her throat or waves arms
- Child loses consciousness
Tips To Avoid a Choking Scenario At Home
Be Alert and Attentive During Mealtime
Never leave a small child unattended while eating. Direct supervision is a necessity.
Avoid Foods That Pose the Greatest Choking Risks
Even if your child is a picky eater, you’ll want to avoid foods that are a similar size and shape to a child’s airway. Hot dogs, grapes, raw veggies, nuts, raisins, hard or gummy candy, chunks of meat or cheese, and popcorn are prime examples of popular foods that can cause a serious choking risk for young children.
Make Sure to Serve a Child’s Food in Small, Manageable Bites
This will require cutting grapes into quarters, cutting hot dogs lengthwise and into pieces and cooking vegetables rather than serving them raw in order to ease the chewing process. It is also important to teach kids to sit down while eating and not to talk or laugh with food in their mouths. Model safe eating habits and chew food thoroughly.
Food Isn’t the Only Source of Choking Risk
Toys and household items also can be just as dangerous. Choose safe, age-appropriate toys. Adhere to the manufacturer’s age recommendations at all times. Any toy smaller than a golf ball (like marbles and jacks) has the potential to create a choking hazard. Deflated balloons, coins, small toy parts, and batteries can be especially dangerous.
What to Do in Case of Choking
If a child is choking and coughing but can breathe and talk, this means the airway is not completely blocked. Advise your child to cough, which may dislodge the object. Don’t try to remove a foreign object unless you see it, or you could push it farther into the airway. Stay with the child and remain calm until the episode passes.
If Child is Conscious but Choking
If the choking child is conscious but unable to breathe or speak, or is turning blue, this could be a choking emergency. Call 911 or tell someone nearby to call 911 immediately. Next, begin administering the Heimlich maneuver if you are trained to do so. If you haven’t been trained, and no one else is available who has been, wait until help arrives.
If Child Loses Consciousness
If the child was choking and is now unconscious and no longer breathing proceed immediately to CPR, if you’ve been trained in it. 30 chest compressions and two breaths—repeatedly for two minutes before stopping to call 911. Those first two minutes are vital for potentially dislodging the object and opening the child’s airway. If you don’t know CPR, in cases of emergencies call 911 once your child has fallen unconscious. We recommend parents of young children to take a first aid course that covers infant and child choking and CPR.