Babies and young children can choke on virtually any object. Tragically, children have died from choking on things such as small balls, tiny toys, balloons, and plants. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, almost sixty percent of choking incidents were food-related. Thirteen percent of cases involved swallowing coins and nineteen percent involved candy or gum. A recent study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (July 2013) found that more than twelve thousand young children per year are brought to the emergency room for choking. Many of these children choked on food. In 1997, more than half of all choking deaths in children were related to latex balloons. We tend to think of balloons as fun objects, but we should be aware of their potential for tragedy.
Some Tips on how to Prevent Choking
- Hot dogs, candy, nuts, peanuts, peanut butter, popcorn, carrots, and grapes should not be given to children less than five years of age. Hot dogs should be sliced lengthwise first for older children.
- Children should eat or drink only when sitting upright, and not while lying down. Also, children should not be forced to eat, especially when they are sleepy.
- Children should never be allowed to eat or drink while playing or running around.
- Young children should always be supervised by an adult during meals and snacks, and during playtime.
- Toys your child plays with should be labeled as being appropriate for his or her age. Keep older children’s toys away from any young child.
- If you have had visitors for a party or a dinner, remember to always immediately remove all foods, beverages, and other objects that are potentially dangerous for a young child.
- Keep your child’s play and sleep areas free of small objects.
- Young children should not be given nor be in contact with latex balloons, at all. Broken balloons can easily choke a small child; so be aware of this and think of using alternative decorations.
- Jewelry can easily be swallowed or inhaled. For this reason, children should not wear any earrings, rings, or any other jewelry items before the age of five.
- Keep coins and other small objects such as buttons, toothpicks, paper clips, plants, seeds, etcetera (and any other household or office item that could be a potential choking threat) away from young children at all times.
- When visiting a friend’s or a relative’s house or on vacation, make sure your child is not exposed to any choking hazards.
It is a good idea to learn how to give first aid to a choking child just in case … but, prevention in the first place is best.
Ontario-based pediatrician Dr. PAUL Roumeliotis, Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics, McGill University and Associate Faculty Member at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, is a writer, publisher, and producer of multi-format health and wellness resources. Dr. Paul’s first published book, Baby Come Home – A Parent’s Guide to a Healthy and Well First 18 Months, focuses on early child development support and its effects. For more information: www.drpaul.com. Copyright Autograph Communications Inc.