The 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:
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:
Additionally, the AAP recommends the following tips to help prevent choking:
The CDC offers the following tips for parents and caregivers to help reduce the risk of a child having a choking incident:
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.
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