As your baby grows you will look forward to introduce a variety of food items in your child’s diet. Since infants and toddlers have underdeveloped swallowing, kids under the age of 4 are at the risk of choking. Choking occurs when an object is caught in a child’s throat blocking their airway and making it difficult or impossible to breathe. Choking is a leading cause of injury and are sometimes fatal in children under the age 4. Toys, certain household items and food can all pose a choking hazard in children - food being the most common cause which accounts for over 50% of choking. Although we do not have specific statistical data on choking in India, we could pull some details from US.
As per nationwidechildrens.org, on an average, a child will die every 5 days in the United States from choking on food.
I have organized this article in to three sections. Let's deep dive into more details about choking.
- Foods that can cause choking - Apples, Popcorn, carrot, etc.
- Some non-food choking hazards.
- Precautions to prevent choking in children.
- Apples - Apples and other firm fruits should cut into very small pieces or cooked thoroughly or mashed.
2. Carrots - Carrots and other vegetables should be soft cooked or shredded before feeding your young child. For older children serve uncooked carrots that are cut lengthwise.
3. Grapes - Always peel and size grapes (lengthwise in quarters). Whole grapes can cause choking even in older kids. Make sure the grapes are no longer in the shape of a ball.
4. Hard or gooey candy - The size and shape of hard and round candies make them very dangerous for young children. Similarly gooey candies can be slippery and pose a choking hazard. Avoid candies and chewing gums for kids younger than four.
5. Popcorn - Popcorn and other small snacks could get stuck easily in your child’s windpipe. It is always safe to avoid such foods to young children.
6. Nuts -The size and shape of nuts are perfect for getting stuck in the airway, making them particularly dangerous for young children to consume whole.
7. Peanut butter - A glob of peanut butter with its sticky nature can be very dangerous to young children as they can seal the airway and cause choking. Spread peanut butter as a thin layer on bread.
- Latex balloons - Kids can choke on latex balloons, while blowing them as they completely block breathing.
- Baby lotion tubes and bottles - Most of the baby lotions and creams are harmless. But, the unscrewed caps pose choking risk.
- Water bottle caps - Kids and toddlers can choke on unscrewed bottle caps.
- Pen caps - Pen caps are always harder to keep track of and kids can easily choke on them.
- Hair ties - Small hair ties that we use on our babies pose a choking risk. Don’t use hair ties that are too small as they can swallow and choke on them. The decorative pieces on the hair ties can be a choking hazard, if they pull them of and swallow.
- Coins - Swallowing coins can be very dangerous when they get lodged in the esophagus. Make sure they are not left within the reach of young children.
- Supervise mealtime - Always supervise your child is eating. Since brain damage can occur within few minutes of choking, never leave them unattended.
- Keep them seated - Always insist your child to eat at the table in an upright position. Never encourage your child to play, run, laugh or cry while eating.
- Teach safe eating habits - Encourage your child to chew the food thoroughly before swallowing. Don’t hurry your child while eating. Let them have a calm and peaceful meal.
- Avoid high-risk foods - Do not provide pureed solid foods before your child is atleast 6 months. The size of your child’s windpipe can be considered to that of a straw- So, always consider the size, shape and consistency before feeding your baby.
- Avoid small objects - Make sure small and other dangerous household products are not within the reach of young children.
What should I do to be prepared if my child chokes?
A child may choke when an object- generally food or toy is stuck in the trachea(airway) preventing airflow in and out the lungs. They will be unable to breath, speak, or make sound. When the choking lasts longer, they will turn blue and become unconscious - in that case it is an emergency. Learn how to handle choking in babies and infants.
"People who love to eat are always the best people" - Julia Child. Happy Parenting!