Little-Known Choking Hazards All Parents Need To Be Made Aware Of
The first few years of a child's life are not only some of the most special, but also the most dangerous. New to the world, they have little understanding of what does and does not constitute a danger. When I was a toddler, for example, I was fascinated by the way the hob glowed red and placed my hand on it - with disastrous results. The fact that my injury didn't scar is a miracle.
Thankfully, most kids don't get anywhere near as close to the hob as me. At the time of the incident, my mom had recently given birth to my younger sister and unfortunately didn't have eyes at the back of her head. But one thing which does pose a huge risk to even the most cautious of parents are choking hazards, which are particularly dangerous to children under three.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the majority of non-fatal choking incidents in children under three are caused by foods such as vegetables, but sadly, those which lead to fatalities are often the result of toys and child products. So, to avoid anything like this from ever happening to your child, we've compiled a list of what the most serious things that constitute a choking hazard.
Food Choking Hazards
1. Firm foods like hot dogs and nuts
Horrifyingly, hot dogs are the most common culprits behind fatal choking cases in children. Simply put: when they are not cut up into smaller chunks, your child may not chew them properly and because of the size of hot dogs, they can be a deadly choking hazard. Similarly, nuts, including seeds, can be dangerous because they can easily get lodged in a child's airways.
2. Round foods including grapes and hard candy
Young children aren't able to chew round hard foods, which makes it easy for them to become lodged in their airways.
3. Foods that a child can consume by the handful, like popcorn
Because of how easily popcorn can be stuffed into a child's mouth, many experts class it as a high-risk food and recommend that it shouldn't be introduced to children until they are least four years old to avoid it becoming a choking hazard.
4. Sticky foods like peanut butter and caramel
Thick spreads like peanut butter can block a small child's airways because it's so thick. That's why it's best to stick to thin spreads.
5. Raw jelly
Sure, kids might have been eating raw jelly for years, but after a girl died choking on a raw jelly cube in 2012, the dangers it poses became fully known. Just like grapes, raw jelly cubes are simply too large for children to chew properly.
Obviously, it's not possible (or advisable) to cut these foods out of a child's diet, which is why CDC has issued guidelines on how you can safely allow your children to eat these foods without having to worry about the possibility of them choking.
Safe Eating Tips
1. Children must be closely supervised at mealtimes
If children are supervised, you can ensure that they are chewing their food properly and that they are not stuffing large quantities of it into their mouth at once. It also gives you the opportunity to encourage them to eat properly.
2. Firm and round foods must be cut into smaller, bite-sized pieces
The diagram above is pretty self-explanatory.
3. Demonstrate how to properly chew food to your children
As we all know, children are new to the world and they learn by example. Your kid might not realize that just because foods like jelly cubes are squidgy, it doesn't mean that they don't have to chew it properly before swallowing. That's why mealtimes should be used as lessons until you're absolutely sure that your child can chew their food properly.
Needless to say, accidents are sometimes inevitable, which is why it's a good idea to be prepared in case your child does choke.
Toys/Household Choking Hazards
Marbles are one of the most recognizable choking hazards to young children and should be kept away from them at all times.
We all know how easy it is to acquire a lot of loose coins, but parents should do their best to keep whatever change they have out of sight and reach of their children. Otherwise, they run the risk of a coin becoming trapped in their esophagus.
Buttons are a little-known choking hazard for children under the age of three, which is why it's advisable to buy them clothes without them. If that's unavoidable, take every care to make sure the buttons are securely sewn and can't be easily ripped off.
4. Pen or marker caps
While action has been taken to make pen caps safer by including little holes in them, this isn't the case for every brand, which is why they present a potentially fatal choking hazard.
5. Plastic bottle caps
Babies might love plastic bottle caps, especially when their teething and can press them against their sore gums, but unfortunately, they're also a choking hazard, which is why it's advisable to give them an alternative.
6. Toy rubber car wheels
If you have young children, make sure that any toy cars you give them do not have rubber wheels that could easily pop off and become a choking hazard.
7. Foam balls that are small enough to fit in a child's mouth
These are a particularly nasty choking hazard because they can be squished into a child's mouth and then expand in their airway.
8. Round watch batteries
Round watch batteries are another lesser known choking hazard and they can be found in a myriad of household items - not just watches. While they might look small enough, if the battery is swallowed it can continue to emit its charge, burning through your child's insides and potentially causing life-threatening injuries.
As was the case for food choking hazards, thankfully, the CDC has also issued guidelines on how to avoid household choking hazards.
Household Choking Hazard Tips
1. Toys that can fit through a 1-1/4-inch circle or are smaller than 2-1/4 inches long are not suitable for kids under four.
It's for this reason that Kinder Surprise was banned in the US. A chocolate egg candy containing a small toy.
In short, you will know what is and isn't safe for your child to play with based on the rules above and age recommendations.
3. Check your house for choking hazards
Older children should be encouraged to keep their toys away from those who are younger. It's also a good idea to check under sofas and around the house to make sure that none of these toys or other hazards like coins are lying around.
3. Children should never be left alone with balloons
Even if the balloon is intact, there is a risk of it popping and them trying to consume it. Ballons might be a staple of children's parties around the world, but they also result in almost half of choking-related fatalities.
4. Do not let your kids play with beanbag chairs
The might look perfectly harmless, but just like balloons, if they suddenly pop, they could also turn into a choking hazard.
Hopefully, the advice on this list will help to lessen any fears that you have about your child choking. With enough knowledge and the right preventative measures in place, this is something you can effectively protect your child against.