It’s normal for curious young children to explore their surroundings. But, part of this behavior involves putting food and other objects in their mouths. These objects can stick in their windpipe (trachea) and make it hard or impossible for them to breathe. Choking sends thousands of infants and toddlers to emergency rooms each year.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and other experts have worked for years to warn parents and child caregivers and to improve the safety of toys and products.
Before age 4, children aren't able to grind their food into small pieces. Protect your child by making a safe eating environment and avoiding certain foods until your child is age 4.
Supervise your child. Don't leave your child alone while he or she is eating.
Sit your child upright in a high chair.
Discourage eating and talking at the same time.
Cut your child's food into small pieces until his or her molars come in.
Stop your child from running with food in his or her mouth.
Don't allow a child younger than age 4 to have these foods:
Nuts and seeds
Chunks of peanut butter
Chunks of meat or cheese
Popcorn, pretzels, potato chips, corn chips, and similar snack foods
Hard, gooey, or sticky candy
Raw vegetables, especially hard ones
If hot dogs are the only food you have, remove the tough skin and cut the meat into small pieces.
While food is the most common cause of choking in small children, other objects are also a threat. Keep small household items and toys with small removable parts out of toddlers' reach. Be sure to remove common offenders, such as:
Uninflated or broken balloons
Balloons are the toys most commonly involved in deadly choking accidents. If a child bites on an inflated latex balloon, it can pop, enter the lungs, and choke the child. Broken pieces of a balloon can also be dangerous if a young child picks one up and puts it in his or her mouth.
Choking can happen even if you are careful. If your child has a forceful cough and is crying or vocal, let the child get the food or object out him or herself. If your child can't make a sound, have someone call 911 or your local emergency number, while you do abdominal thrusts. Learn the version that's right for your child's age. The American Heart Association provides standard procedures for choking victims of all ages. Once the food or object comes out, take your child to the healthcare provider. A piece of the object may remain in the lung. Only a healthcare provider can tell if your child is OK.