700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Choking Prevention: Be Aware of These Common Hazards to Keep Kids Safe

Aug 29, 2019

I didn’t really spend much time thinking about choking until my second child came along. Suddenly, I realized that all of my older child’s building blocks and tiny snacks were a real risk to my new baby. Choking is a common cause of injury and death in children, with kids younger than 3 years of age at greatest risk.

Several factors place children at higher risk for choking including narrower airways and an underdeveloped mouth. A smaller airway and teeth that aren’t fully developed, or with less than ideal arrangement, can combine to cause poor chewing and swallowing ability. Add in high levels of activity and distractibility and there is added choking risk.

What Are the Worst Choking Culprits?

Hot dogs are the most common food associated with choking fatalities. Candy, meat and bone are responsible for more than half of nonfatal, food-related choking.

Coins, button batteries, small toys and toy parts are the leading causes of nonfatal choking that isn’t due to food, while latex balloons are the leading cause of nonfood-related choking fatalities.

What Can Parents Do?

In addition to having children eat sitting down, with direct supervision, here are some steps parents can take to help keep their kids safe.

  • Cut food items such as grapes and hot dogs ‘long ways’ and into small pieces
  • Keep coins, button batteries and other choking hazards up and out of the reach of small children
  • Keep deflated or broken pieces of latex balloons out of reach
  • Check under furniture or between furniture cushions for potential choking hazards
  • Follow age guidelines on toys
  • Learn CPR

Nothing can completely prevent a child from choking, but being mindful of food size and texture and keeping small toys and household products away from small children can make a big difference.

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Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Sarah A. Denny, MD
Emergency Medicine

Sarah Denny, MD, FAAP, works as an attending physician in the Section of Emergency Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and as an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.