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Choking Prevention in Small Children

Overview

Young children can easily choke on food and everyday objects. You can help prevent your child from choking by offering the right kinds of foods and watching for choking hazards.

Watching how your child eats can also help prevent choking.

Food

To prevent choking, use care when you select and prepare food. Do not give round, firm foods to children younger than age 4 unless the food is chopped completely. Foods that can be choking hazards include:

  • Seeds (for example, sunflower or watermelon).
  • Nuts.
  • Popcorn.
  • Hot dogs.
  • Chunks of peanut butter.
  • Raw vegetables.
  • Raisins.
  • Whole grapes.
  • Chunks of meat or cheese.
  • Hard or sticky candy.
  • Chewing gum.
  • Chunks of fruit, such as apple chunks.

Toys and other objects

Young children can choke on:

  • Toys, such as:
    • Jacks, marbles, and marble-sized balls.
    • Latex balloons, either uninflated or broken pieces. Balloons are easily inhaled into the windpipe.
    • Those with small detachable parts, like wheels.
  • Household objects, such as:
    • Rubber bands.
    • Coins.
    • Adhesive bandages.
    • Buttons.
    • Beads and other jewelry.
    • Thumbtacks and screws.
    • Paper clips, pen tops, and safety pins.
    • Clothing price tags.
    • Small holiday decorations.
  • Kitchen items, such as:
    • Eggshells.
    • Bottle caps.
    • Plastic tabs from protective coverings on containers.

Preparing food safely

To help prevent your child from choking on food, follow these basic food safety tips.

  • Teach your child to eat only in the kitchen or dining room.

    Be sure your child sits down while eating and that they chew carefully. Don't allow your child to eat while walking, running, riding in a car, or playing.

  • Don't force your child to eat when they aren't hungry.
  • Know the kinds of foods that can be choking hazards.

    These include foods like popcorn, hotdogs, and grapes.

  • Prepare food for your children to reduce the risk of choking.
    Fruit with skins or pits, such as apples or apricots.

    Remove pits and peel fruits before you give them to your child. Fruits can also be diced or cooked and mashed.

    Fish or chicken with bones.

    Carefully cut the meat off the bone and then into small pieces. Check meat thoroughly for any signs of bones.

    Peanut butter.

    A spoonful of peanut butter can block the windpipe. Peanut butter can also stick to the lining of the throat and windpipe, making a child unable to breathe. Only allow peanut butter that is spread thinly on a slice of bread or a cracker.

    Hot dogs and sausages.

    Slice and dice these meats. You may want to remove the skin before you cut them.

    Grapes.

    Peel and mash grapes before you serve them.

    Beans (green, string, lima, kidney, and others the size of a marble or larger).

    Mash beans before you serve them.

    Peas.

    Each single pea is small. But a child who eats more than one pea at a time may choke.

    Whole carrots.

    A child may break off too big a bite and choke. Cook carrots and cut them into smaller pieces. Or cut raw carrots into thin slices.

Credits

Current as of: March 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics