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Choking Prevention

​Hearing or seeing that a child is choking is a terrifying experience for anyone, but brief choking is actually fairly common for children under 3. Often children will eliminate the airway blockage on their own, but it may give parents peace of mind to know how to avoid choking and when use emergency action.

Choking Prevention

The best way to prevent choking in young children is to ensure age-appropriate food and play.

Your pediatrician will give advice on when to introduce solids, finger food and table food. Infants as young as 7-10 months are ready to start some finger-feeding, and toddlers over 12-15 months usually don’t want any help with feeding. Regardless of where your child is developmentally, the following are a few things to keep in mind as he or she learns to eat new foods:

  • Avoid chewy meat until your child has had molars for a while.
  • Do not serve food shaped like a coin, as this is a common type of food to cause choking. For example, if serving a hot dog, split it in fourths length-wise so that it makes four hot dog spears rather than cutting it into little circles.

Facilitating safe play can be fairly easy if you follow the recommendations on toy boxes. Often if a toy is not approved for children under 3, it is due to small parts that might get swallowed or stuck in a child’s throat.

What to do if your Child is Choking

Despite protective measures, children often choke while learning to chew. Though it can be alarming, it is not always an emergency situation. It is possible for the child to cough up what he or she was choking on without assistance. Puff cereal is made to dissolve, so if you see your child gagging on this type of food, encourage him or her to drink some water to aid that process.

There are times when emergency action is needed. If a toddler’s face is turning blue and/or he or she can’t cough, hit the middle of the back firmly with the heel of your hand a couple of times. This will help dislodge the food. If this tactic does not relieve the choking immediately, call 9-1-1.​​​​​​​​

  • Choking Prevention

    ​Choking, whether it's just a simple gagging on a small piece of food or a more dangerous choking on a food or a toy, it's  a really common cause of clinic, emergency room, hospitalization, those kinds of visits in children under 3 years old.

    I think the most important steps in preventing choking are thinking about age-appropriate feeding and play.

    With feeding, your pediatrician and others will give you advice about when it's appropriate to introduce solid foods, when your baby is ready to try finger and table food, where they're actually picking up small pieces of food and eating it themselves. 

    Early on the rules that I give parents include nothing like a really, chewy meat, until they have their molars and have had them in for a while and are really learning how to chew properly with them.

    Then as they get older, by 18 months, kids absolutely do not want you feeding them. They want to do it all by themselves.

    The most important thing for you to do is to make sure you serve them nothing shaped like a coin. A coin is the shape they can choke on, most commonly.

    If you're going to serve a hot dog, instead of cutting it in little coins, make it into long spears and let them pick it up and bite off little pieces with their teeth, or cut those spears into bites for them already.

    Don't serve toddlers whole grapes, cut the grapes in halves or even quarters to make sure you don't have that ball shape that they could choke on.

    The other thing is going to be appropriate play. This is why all toys come with recommendations that say, not recommended for children under 3 years or things like that.

    Toys that either have really small parts, like little wheels on LEGO cars, or toys that are very small and the entire toy can fit in the mouth, like those new little tiny squinky dolls. Those should not be given to kids under 3. They cannot be trusted to not put it in their mouth.

    What do you do if your child is choking?

    Babies often choke as a part of their first few times learning to pick something up and eat it, especially, things like dry cereals or those little infant puff products that dissolve with their saliva.

    If one of those items gets to the back too quickly, they'll kind of gag. If they're gagging on it but they're breathing and their color looks good, you might tell them, oh you need a little drink of water. Just pick up their Sippy cup with water and tilt it towards their face and get them to take a little drink to swallow it down.

    If a child is ever changing color, turning blue, unable to speak or cough, those are your signs that you probably need intervene very urgently.

    With a baby or a very young toddler, the easiest thing to do is to lift them out of the high chair if possible,  or even just in the high chair, use the heel of your hand to give a few, sharp back blows.

    You just want to hit them in the middle of their back a couple of times and often times, that will dislodge something so it will either go up or down.

    If it doesn't immediately work then call 911.​​

Health and Safety