[adapted from The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery]
Unlike small toys, food does not contain warning labels about possible choking hazards. Since 60% of non-fatal choking incidents result from food, let us examine some ways to reduce the risk of choking while children are eating.
High risk foods that may cause children to choke:
- Hard candy
- Whole grapes
- Raw carrots
- Hot dogs
- Chunks of peanut butter
- Chewing gum
- Foods that are round and could conform to a child’s airway
Tips to reduce risk of choking:
Children should be seated when eating. Caregivers and teachers should ensure that children do not eat while standing, walking, running, playing, lying down, or riding in vehicles.
Children should be wide awake when eating. Children should not be allowed to continue to feed themselves or continue to be assisted with feeding themselves if they begin to fall asleep.
Active supervision is a must. Children require increased supervision when eating because they are easily distracted and may not pay full attention to the task of eating. Remember, a choking child may not make any noise, so adults must keep their eyes on children who are eating.
Watch children for “squirreling” of several pieces of food in their mouth. Too much food in their mouth increases the risk of choking.
Food should not be used for children’s games that involve catching the food item in the mouth or stuffing large numbers or amounts of food in the mouth.
Cut foods into small pieces and shapes that will not block the airways, especially grapes and other fruits, meat, cheese, and raw vegetables. Cut hot dogs lengthwise as well as widthwise.
Cook vegetables so they become softer and easier to swallow.
Give only small amounts of peanut butter or other similar foods to prevent them for blocking the child’s airway.
- Offer plenty of liquids to children when eating, but make sure liquids and solids are not swallowed at the same time.