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Don't Put That In Your Mouth!  
Children and choking hazards


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Don't Put That In Your Mouth!
Children and choking hazards.

Gerber Life Family Times Archive

ImageThe excitement began as soon as you received the news that you were expecting. Nine months of planning and anticipation followed and the end result was a beautiful little person for you to care for and protect. From the time most babies enter the world, their hands are their main mechanism for finding comfort and experiencing the things around them. From sucking on a thumb or fist to grabbing anything and everything in site, if there is something that can find its way into a child's mouth, they'll find a way to make it happen. As soon as a baby takes its permanent place in your family, all family members take on the added responsibility of providing a safe and protected environment where the new addition can grow, develop, and test out the new abilities that come along with the process of growing up.

Given their natural inclination to put everything in their mouth, babies and toddlers demand special attention when it comes to being around small items that could become potential choking hazards. With that in mind, there are a few tips and guidelines that you and your family members and any potential care providers should be aware of to help eliminate any potential choking dangers for your child.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that in 2000, 160 children ages 14 years or younger died from an obstruction of the respiratory tract due to inhaled or ingested foreign bodies. Of these, 41% were caused by food items and 59% by nonfood items. The CDC adds that for every choking-related death there are more than 100 visits to emergency departments in the United States, and in 2001 an estimated 17,537 children 14 years or younger were treated in U.S. emergency departments for choking episodes.

According to the Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC), food or small objects can cause choking when they get caught in the throat and block the airway, preventing oxygen from getting to the lungs and brain. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that when the brain goes without oxygen for more than four minutes, brain damage or even death may occur.

The CDC states that every child is at risk for choking and that younger children are at particular risk because of their tendency to place objects in their mouths, their poor chewing ability, and their narrow airways compared with those of older children and adults.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping the following foods away from children younger than 4 years of age:

  • Chewing gum
  • Chunks of meat or cheese
  • Chunks of peanut butter
  • Hard, gooey, or sticky candy
  • Hot dogs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Popcorn
  • Raisins
  • Raw vegetables
  • Whole grapes

In addition, the AAP also provides a list of common household items that should be kept away from infants and young children to reduce the risk of choking:

  • Coins
  • Latex balloons
  • Marbles
  • Medicine syringes
  • Pen or marker caps
  • Small balls
  • Small button-type batteries
  • Toys that can be compressed to fit entirely into a child's mouth
  • Toys with small parts

Additionally, the AAP recommends the following tips to help prevent choking:

  • Parents should supervise children at mealtime
  • Children should be taught to chew their food well
  • Children should be sitting—not lying down or in motion—while eating
  • Children under 4 should not be fed any round, firm food unless it is cut into small pieces no larger than one-half inch.
  • Caregivers should also be aware of older children's actions since older children and siblings may give a younger child dangerous foods, toys, or small objects.
  • Uninflated and broken balloons can choke or suffocate a child who attempts to swallow them. The Consumer Product Safety Commission notes that more children have suffocated on uninflated balloons and balloon pieces than on any other type of toy.
  • Medications in pill form can pose a choking hazard to young children. Instead of pills, as your doctor to prescribe mediation in liquid or some other form.

The CDC offers the following tips for parents and caregivers to help reduce the risk of a child having a choking incident:

  • Keep a watchful eye on children when eating and playing.
  • Keep dangerous toys, foods, and household items out of reach.
  • Learn how to provide early treatment for children who are choking.

One final note is that when children are involved, it is always best to be prepared for anything. Parents and caregivers can prepare themselves by taking classes in basic first aid, CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, and emergency prevention from either the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.

By being aware of some basic guidelines, monitoring all activities, screening activity and rest areas, and ensuring that all family members and caretakers are informed as well, you can eliminate many of the potential household choking hazards that may confront your child.

As with any health related issue, consult with your family physician or caregiver regarding your family's particular health issues.

Federal Citizen Information Center—
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—
American Academy of Pediatrics—
Consumer Products Safety Commission—

Articles are provided for the general interest of our readers. Gerber Life Insurance is not responsible for any content and recommends that you consult the appropriate professional with any questions or concerns you may have concerning any financial or health related issues.

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