Preventing choking in children
Choking in toddlers and children is one health emergency that requires immediate treatment. Sometimes, children choke while they cough and toys can also pose a hazard. What can you do?
By Poorvisha Ravi • 6 min read
Most people are ill-equipped for emergency situations. They often fail to foresee accidents and often do not know how to administer first aid and take emergency measures. This is especially relevant in the context of children, as they tend to be more accident-prone.
One of the most common domestic accidents that can happen to children is choking. According to an article, Choking Prevention For Children, published in the New York State Department of Health, in 2017, choking is the fourth leading cause of accidental death in children under the age of five years.
A little forethought goes a long way in ensuring that choking does not occur at all. Here are the most common causes of choking and what parents can do to prevent them:
Parents should pay equal attention to how and what children eat, especially when they are not present. Here are some tips on how you can prevent children from choking on food:
- Do not worry if your child is a slow eater. Eating too fast is the biggest risk factor for choking – especially with children who are in a hurry to finish eating lunch so they can rush outside to play.
- Encourage your child to take smaller bites and chew his food well before swallowing.
- For babies and toddlers, make sure that the food is soft, mashed and does not contain large particles.
- Do not allow children to eat while lying down, playing, watching TV, travelling, etc.
- Keep a cup of water close by when the child is eating and allow small sips between bites. Avoid giving a young child food such as popcorn, fried grams, whole grapes, raw vegetables and corn that have a high risk of choking. Some sticky foods like peanut butter can also be harmful.
Toys are almost always in close contact with children. While some toys are designed to be chewed or resistant to chewing, many toys have loose parts that can be a choking hazard. Parents must keep these things in mind while buying toys for their children:
- Buy only age-appropriate toys. Your toddler’s smartness is no excuse to bring her a game or a toy that’s clearly meant for older children. Look for labels on children’s games and toys that specify the age.
- Ensure that the older sibling’s toys are out of the reach of younger children. Teach older siblings that their toys and games could be inappropriate for younger children.
- Examine your child’s toys to ensure that no parts are loose or broken.
- Check if any toy or its parts are too soft to be bitten off and swallowed.
- Notice the ‘choking hazard’ labels on toys. Sometimes even toys specifically designed for young children bear this label.
- Never leave children completely unsupervised while playing with toys and jigsaw puzzles.
Miscellaneous household objects
While it is easy to watch what your child plays with or eats, it is more difficult to keep an eye on her all the time. It’s no surprise that babies and toddlers, tend to put anything within their reach into their mouth – from mud to even small insects.
Keep small objects like pens, pieces of paper, beads, stationery, plastic, polythene, coins, marbles, etc., at a height that the child cannot reach. Vacuum the floor often. You may even consider getting your house professionally baby-proofed.
Taking care of a child is a big responsibility; but by implementing proper safety measures, you can ensure your child remains free of any lurking danger. The most important step is to possess the presence of mind and remain calm in the event of a crisis.
Validated by Dr Shruthi Gatalia, Pediatrician
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