Baby health

Top choking hazards for kids

Many things around your home can become choking hazards. Here's how to identify them and reduce their danger.

By Claire Gagne

Top choking hazards for kids

Photo: iStockphoto

Choking can happen at any age, but kids face a higher choking risk if they are under the age of five. At this age, kids' airways are about the size of their pinky finger, which means it doesn't take a lot for something to get stuck.

Prevention is key when it comes to choking. Always supervise your kids while they're eating and teach them to chew their food thoroughly and avoid talking with their mouths full. Also, encouraging them to sit calmly while eating will reduce their risk of choking. When introducing solids to babies, make sure to begin with puréed food rather than solid pieces. Parents can also be sure to keep small objects (even soft ones) out of reach from small children.

Discarded items such as the corners of milk bags and pop tabs from cans can also pose a choking risk for small children, so be sure to dispose of them properly.

Tip: As a rule of thumb, toys and objects that can fit through a toilet paper tube (i.e. smaller than four centimetres) are not safe to give to babies and toddlers.

For a list of foods and household items that are potential choking hazards, check out the gallery below:

Top 10 choking hazards

Popcorn, peanuts and nuts

A child’s airway is approximately the size of her pinky finger, which means small snack foods, such as popcorn or nuts, could easily get lodged. These foods are particularly hazardous as kids often devour them by the handful.

Top choking hazards for kidsPhoto: iStockphoto

Whole grapes and other small fruits

Small, round objects like grapes can get stuck in the airway, so slice them lengthwise in quarters when serving them to small children. Kids up to four years old are still learning how to chew and swallow properly and can be easily distracted while eating, which can cause choking. When cutting grapes in half for children who are a bit older, do so lengthwise so they are no longer in the shape of a ball. Always be sure to cut cherries and remove the pits before giving to kids.

Top choking hazards for kidsPhoto: iStockphoto

Hot dogs

Instead of cutting a hot dog into rounds, cut it once lengthwise so it no longer has its round shape. If you do serve the hot dog whole, do so without the bun, as children will often chew the bun first and be left with a round piece of hot dog in their mouths. 

Top choking hazards for kidsPhoto: iStockphoto

Raw carrots

Cut raw carrots into matchstick-sized pieces. For young children, cook and chop carrots before serving. Although convenient, the perfectly round shape of a baby carrot makes it particularly dangerous if it’s not cut lengthwise.

Top choking hazards for kidsPhoto: iStockphoto

Hard candies

Any hard candy is dangerous, but small, round candies are the perfect size and shape for getting stuck in the airway. Avoid giving these to kids younger than four, and don’t let your child walk or run with candy in his mouth. Gooey marshmallows are also a common choking hazard so make sure to only give your kid the small marshmallows to put in their hot chocolate. 

Top choking hazards for kidsPhoto: iStockphoto

Latex balloons

Latex balloons are the most common cause of non-food choking deaths in children. Popped or broken pieces of a balloon can completely seal your child’s airway. Never leave your child unattended with a filled balloon as it might pop in your absence.

Top choking hazards for kidsPhoto: iStockphoto

Apples

Chunks of apple can easily become lodged in the airway. Always supervise your child while eating. For young children, cut apples into matchstick-sized pieces. For older children who prefer larger pieces, consider leaving the skin on, which will encourage them to chew more thoroughly.

little boy eating an applePhoto: iStockphoto

Peanut butter

Like latex balloons, a chunk of peanut butter can create a seal around the airway. Don’t give large dollops. Instead, spread peanut butter thinly on bread or crackers. 

Top choking hazards for kidsPhoto: iStockphoto

Small toys

Small toys, especially round ones like balls and marbles, are dangerous for young children. A good rule of thumb: Avoid giving kids younger than three any toy that can fit through a toilet paper roll. Encourage older siblings to put their toys away and check under couches and beds for small objects.

Top choking hazards for kidsPhoto: iStockphoto

Coins and buttons

Although children can certainly choke on coins, they’re more likely to be ingested accidentally rather than cause true choking, where the airway is obstructed. However, a coin can become lodged in the esophagus, which requires medical attention. Be particularly mindful of pennies, which are left lying around more commonly now that they are out of use. Watch out when your kid is exploring the closets in your house as coins may have fallen out of pockets and buttons off of clothing.

Top choking hazards for kidsPhoto: iStockphoto

Magnets and watch batteries

Small magnets can come out of the plastic letters you see on many family fridges, so be wary of letting your kids play unattended. Even if these don’t cause your child to choke, accidental ingestion should call for medical attention as magnets can stick together through intestinal lining and cause damage to your kids digestive system.

Little boy playing with magnets on an easelPhoto: iStockphoto

Pen and marker caps

Making sure kids don’t draw on the walls isn’t the only reason to supervise colouring time. Pen and marker caps can be choking hazards if ingested.

Two babies playing with markersPhoto: iStockphoto

Small beads, decorative stones and jewellery

These items tend to find themselves in craft bins and junk drawers around the house. Make sure to keep them out of reach of small kids. When crafting with your kids, make sure they know the difference between beads and candy.

Little kid playing with a bowl of beadsPhoto: iStockphoto

Read more: What to do if your child is choking Awesome PSA alert: Save a choking baby

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