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Decrease the Chances of Infant / Toddler Choking

Choking is a common cause of injury and death in children younger than age 1, mainly because their airways are small and easily obstructed.  It takes a while for babies to master the ability to chew and swallow food.  They may not be able to cough forcefully in order to dislodge an airway obstruction.  Babies will often put objects in their mouths when exploring their new environments and this can lead to infant choking.

Food is the most common cause of infant choking. Small objects, small parts from toys and some types of behavior during eating, such as eating while distracted can also be the cause of infant choking.

Ways to decrease the chance of infant choking:

  • Proper timing:  Your baby should be at least 4 months old to introduce pureed solids.
  • Do not offer high-risk foods.  Babies and young children should not be given foods such as hot dogs, whole grapes or hard candy or hard to chew foods, such as raw carrots, seeds, nuts or popcorn. Sticky and tough foods like chewing gum, peanut butter, marshmallows and pieces of meat should not be offered until developmentally appropriate. 
  • Supervised mealtime.  Babies and children should not be allowed to play, walk or run while eating.  It is important to remind your child to chew and swallow his or her food before talking.
  • Carefully inspect your child’s toys.  Do not allow your baby or toddler to play with latex balloons.  Small balls, marbles and toys that contain small parts are also not safe.  Most toys that are meant for older children are not safe for infants and toddlers.  Please check age guidelines.
  • Keep hazardous objects out of reach.  Household items that can pose a choking hazard are safety pins, coins, pen or marker caps, buttons, small batteries, baby powder, magnets, and swatches of fabric or small pieces of paper. These items should not be within reach of a baby or toddler.

What to do if your baby chokes

If your baby is choking:

  • hold him or her facedown on your forearm. 
  • Thump your baby firmly on the middle of the back using the heel of your hand

The combination of back blows and gravity will help in releasing the object that is blocking your baby’s airway.  If you are still concerned about your babies breathing, call 911.  To help prepare you for emergencies taking a class in CPR and choking first aid for children will always be beneficial.

(August, 2012)