Reducing Choking Risks

Reducing Choking Risks: Tips for Early Education and Child Care Settings

High risk foods and food characteristics:

  • Hard candy
  • Peanuts/nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grapes
  • Raw carrots
  • Apples
  • Popcorn
  • Hot dogs
  • Chunks of peanut butter
  • Marshmallows
  • Chewing gum
  • Sausages
  • Foods that are round and could conform to a child’s airway

Since 60% of non-fatal choking incidents result from food, let’s examine some ways to reduce the risk of choking while children are eating.

Reducing Food Choking Risks

  1. Children should be seated when eating – Caregivers/Teachers should ensure that children do not eat when standing, walking, running, playing, lying down or riding in vehicles.
  2. Children should not be allowed to continue to feed themselves or continue to be assisted with feeding themselves if they begin to fall asleep.
  3. Active supervision is a must! Watch children for “squirreling” of several pieces of food in their mouth. This increases the risk of choking. Remember a choking child may not make any noise, so adults must keep their eyes on children who are eating.
  4. Children at this age require increased supervision when eating because they are easily distracted and may not pay full attention to the task of eating.
  5. 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.
  6. Cut foods such as grapes and other fruits, meat, cheese and raw vegetables into small pieces and shapes that will not block the airways. Cut hot dogs lengthwise as well as widthwise.
  7. Cook vegetables so they become softer and easier to swallow.
  8. Give only small amounts of peanut butter or other similar foods to prevent them for blocking the child’s airway.
  9. Offer plenty of liquids to children when eating, but make sure liquids and solids are not swallowed at the same time.
  10. Remember, foods do not contain warning labels about possible choking hazards.

Reprinted with the permission of AAP News (January, 2011)

© 2017 American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery

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