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Choking Safety

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, choking is the leading cause of death among children under 3 years of age.

The statistics are alarming.  Food, coins and toys top the list of culprits.  Complete vigilance in this area falls directly on parents and caregivers.

There are many characteristics that make an item a risk; size, shape, and consistency play a part in their potential to cause choking among small children.

Children under 3 love putting everything in their mouths. This is a natural milestone! Preparing your environment is paramount.

If you have older children in the same home, remove toys with small pieces from the play environment while the younger child is around.  Toys and their benefits are important, but how do we keep our children safe?

What is small?  How can I tell if something is a choking hazard?

Try the simple toilet paper roll test.

If an item fits easily inside the hollow middle of a toilet paper roll, the item is too small and potentially hazardous for a child under 3.

There are plastic 'testers' on the market that indicate parts smaller than 1¼ inches around or 2¼ inches long pose a choking hazard.  The TP test has a bit of a larger area, but it's an inexpensive, easy way to test out toys and food items you already have on hand.

All young children are at risk for choking. We have some ideas to help you safeguard your children:

  • Toy selection: Toys are designed to be used by children within a certain age range. Age guidelines take into account the safety of a toy based on any possible choking hazard. Read labels or do the TP test.   
  • Look around: Check in sofa cushions and under furniture for small objects that fall out of pant pockets.
  • Be vigilant: Watch young children whenever they are eating or drinking. Eating in the car is absolutely a risk for choking.
  • Eat sitting down: Don't let children eat while lying down, walking, climbing, or running.
  • Prepare food well: Prepare food to be easily digested, by cutting finger-foods into manageable sizes.  Be aware of the consistency of some foods like peanut butter, some children have a hard time eating a dollop of that. Spread it thinly on bread or crackers.

Foods to avoid

  • Hot dogs
  • Raw vegetables
  • Cherries
  • Raw apples and pears
  • Berries
  • Oranges or Grapefruit
  • Raisins Nuts or seeds
  • Popcorn
  • Hard candy or sticky candy/gum
  • Whole grapes
  • Chunks of meat or cheese

Toys and items to avoid

  • Buttons
  • Coins
  • Marbles and balls
  • Small hair bows/barrettes
  • Refrigerator magnets
  • Pen and marker caps
  • Rocks
  • Safety pins
  • Dog food
  • Jewelry

Special Note About Balloons

A surprising, common hazard are balloons - not when they are blown up, but when they're deflated! Never let small children play with balloons, blow them up or pop them.  The deflated balloon poses serious hazards.  Also, hanging mobiles above cribs can be dangerous and putting your child to bed with jewelry or hair accessories on.

Choking can be avoided!

Parents and caregivers need to be aware of choking risks for children.  We hope the easy tips and ideas will help ease your stress in this area and offer you thoughtful ways to avoid a choking emergency in your home.

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