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Safe Food for Babies and Children: Choking Dangers (FN664 (Revised))

Every child is at risk of choking: Older infants and children less than 5 years old easily can choke on food, toys and household objects. A single choking incident may result in death, permanent brain damage due to lack of oxygen and other complications associated with airway blockage. This publication provides tips on choking prevention.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D. Food and Nutrition Specialist

Tami Totland, R.D., L.R.D., Program Assistant (former)

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Every child is at risk of choking. Older infants and children less than 5 years old easily can choke on food, toys and household objects. A single choking incident may result in death, permanent brain damage due to lack of oxygen and other complications associated with airway blockage.

Children and infants do not grind or chew their food well and may attempt to swallow food whole. Large pieces of food easily can lodge in the throat and result in choking. Children are likely to choke on small, round, pliable objects that conform to the shape of the throat. The following foods and household items can be choking hazards:

Common Choking Hazards­

Foods­

  • Hot dogs and sausages­
  • Chunks of meat or cheese­
  • Whole grapes­
  • Hard, gooey or sticky candy­
  • Popcorn­
  • Peanuts and nuts­
  • Raw carrots­
  • Fruit seeds­ Jewelry­
  • Apple chunks­
  • Chewing gum­

Household Items­

  • Coins­
  • Toys with small parts­
  • Small balls and marbles­
  • Balloons­
  • Arts and crafts material­
  • Ballpoint pen caps­
  • Watch batteries­

Choking Prevention Tips

■ For infants to age 1, cut up foods into small pieces no larger than ¼-inch. Toddlers generally can eat foods cut in ½-inch pieces or slightly larger.

■ Watch infants and young children when they are eating. Eating while walking, running or laughing may lead to a choking incident.

■ Parental supervision during mealtime is essential. Remind children to chew food thoroughly, take small bites and eat slowly. Siblings should not be put in charge of feedings.

■ Keep dangerous toys, foods and household items out of children’s reach.

■ Learn how to provide emergency first aid for choking infants and children. The American Heart Association and American Red Cross provide courses on basic life support and CPR.

This material is based upon work supported by the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement No. 2002-51110-01512.

Reviewed August 2016

For more information on choking, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics Web site.

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