As the mother of a toddler, I’m always looking for ways to keep my son’s plate and playtime exciting. He loves trying new foods and is usually interested in what I’m eating, so I try to make sure to prepare food he’s able to eat safely. Having a toddler has also forced me to clean and organize my home in certain ways, and I’ve requested the same of his grandparents and friends we visit.
Choking is a year-round hazard among children and a leading cause of injury and death, especially among children 3 years of age and younger. Food, coins, and small toys can cause choking if they get caught in the throat and block the airway.
Children 3 years of age and younger should not be given round, firm foods unless they have been chopped into very small pieces. The following foods are common choking hazards:
Hot dogs and sausages
Nuts and seeds
Chunks of meat and cheese
Whole grapes and fruit chunks, like apples
Hard, gooey, or sticky candy
Chunks of peanut butter
Raw vegetables, such as carrots
Many common toys and household items are also choking hazards. Keep these items stored up, away, and out of sight of young children.
Marbles, small balls, high-powered magnets, or ball-shaped objects (less than 1.75" in diameter)
Toys with small parts or toys that can be squeezed to fit entirely into a child's mouth
Pen or marker caps
Small button-type batteries
It may seem hard to get rid of all the choking hazards in your home and everywhere your child goes. Here are some tips to help decrease the risk of choking:
Cut food for young children into small pieces.
Always supervise mealtimes.
Children should never run, walk, play, or lie down with food in their mouths.
Be aware of older children's actions. Choking incidents can occur when an older child gives dangerous foods, toys, or small objects to a younger child.
Avoid toys with small parts and keep small household items out of the reach of infants and young children.
Small parts test devices are available at many toy stores and baby specialty stores. If the part can fit in the tube, it is too small for a young child.
Check the minimum age recommendations on toy packages. Age guidelines reflect the safety of a toy based on potential choking hazards as well as children's development.
Do not allow young children to play with coins.
Learn first aid for choking and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Your local fire department may offer classes, or check out the offerings from Nationwide Children’s Hospital. You can also take a class online through the American Red Cross.
Laura Dattner is a research writer in the Center for Injury Research and Policy. With both a health communications and public health background, she works to translate pediatric injury research into meaningful, accurate messages which motivate the public to make positive behavior changes.
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