Small children are known for putting things in their mouths. It does not matter what the item is. Either due to curiosity or teething, toddlers will pick up everyday items from car keys to money to household goods to dropped food and then put items in their mouths or chew on them. Often the toddler will swallow the item or get it lodged in his or her throat, requiring emergency treatment. Nearly 60% of children who are treated in an emergency room choked on food. 19% choked on candy or gum, and another 13% swallowed coins. Emergency treatment is also common for children who swallow uninflated balloons.
Though it is impossible to watch toddlers at all times and some incidents cannot be prevented, there are several ways that parents, guardians, and other caretakers can decrease choking in small children. Since the majority of choking is due to food, one way is to make meal time safer for toddlers. Food should be cut into small, bite-size pieces, and young children should sit up at a high chair or table while eating. They should also be supervised at all times while eating. Certain round or hard foods should not be given to children under the age of five. These include hot dogs, hard candy, grapes, and popcorn.
Another way to prevent choking in small children is to keep small objects out of their reach. Since it would be impossible to convince small children to stop putting small objects in their mouths, the easier option is to keep those items away from them. Simply put, if they do not have access to these items, they cannot put them in their mouths and choke on them. Small items like balloons, buttons, coins, beads, jewelry, marbles, and rocks should be kept in drawers or on high shelves out of a toddler’s reach.
A third way is to make sure that children only play with age-appropriate toys. Most toys are labeled with the recommended ages and will contain warnings about any choking hazards such as small parts or magnets. Parents, teachers, babysitters, and guardians should read these labels carefully and follow any listed instructions.
Strangulation & Suffocation Prevention
While strangulation is not as common as choking, it can still be a great danger to small children. In order to decrease the likelihood of strangulation, caretakers should remove bibs, necklaces, scarves, and clothing with drawstrings, such as hoodies, while children are playing or sleeping. Cords and strings should also be kept away from children. Cribs and toys should be positioned away from windows and window cords.
Accidental suffocation can occur when a small child’s face or chest is covered and they are unable to breathe. Parents should refrain from placing stuffed items or heavy blankets in a crib or bed with a small child, and plastic bags should be kept out of the reach of toddlers at all times.
On average, more than 1,000 children under the age of 15 die from unintentional choking or strangulation each year. More than nine out of every 10 of these deaths were children under the age of five. Following the tips above could help to reduce this number drastically and save the lives of thousands of children.