Tips to Help Prevent Your Child From Choking

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Choking occurs when something in a child's mouth gets into the trachea (air passage) instead of the esophagus (food passage). The trachea becomes blocked and air cannot get into the child's lungs. Infants are apt to choke if they are given solid foods too early, before they are able to coordinate chewing and swallowing. Toddlers are vulnerable because they often do not chew their food enough, or at all. The best insurance against choking is knowing how to relieve it. Become familiar with the correct measures to deal with choking as they are described in your first aid book - back blows/chest pressures for a baby, the Heimlich maneuver for an older child - so that you'll be prepared if you ever need to use one of them.

Then Ten Most Common Foods That Cause Choking

  1. Hot Dogs
  2. Chunks of Meat
  3. Grapes
  4. Hard Candy
  5. Chunky Peanut Butter
  6. Nuts
  7. Popcorn
  8. Raisins
  9. Raw Carrots
  10. Ice Cubes

Safety Tips

  • Get in the habit of cutting hot dogs in lengthwise strips, versus "circles." Carrots, too.
  • Cut grapes in half for small children. You may even wish to peel the skins off.
  • Trachea-size (small and round) pieces of anything are what to watch for. That is the size that sticks in a child's throat. Round and slippery foods are the most common hazards.
  • Don't ever leave a baby or small child alone while he or she is eating.
  • Insist that your child eat in an upright position. This rule applies for babies too. A bottle should not be propped for an infant who is lying down.
  • Stress the importance of taking small bites and chewing food well.
  • Supervise your child's eating extra carefully if you have applied a teething anesthetic to his or her gums within the past hour or so. These products sometimes impair a child's ability to swallow.
  • Do not interfere with a choking child who is breathing, coughing, or speaking. Natural reflexes usually do the trick. Remove anything visible versus poking your finger in the mouth - and possibly the item down the trachea. 

If your child chokes and cannot breathe, call for help immediately. Then administer appropriate treatment. If possible, let someone else do the calling. Don't wait for help to arrive, and don't try to get to an emergency room. There's rarely time. Irreversible brain damage can result from the lack of oxygen to the brain.

Have your child examined by a doctor after a choking incident, even if you think recovery is complete. There may still be fragments in the upper respiratory tract.

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