Whether or not you have children of your own, you have probably been in the presence of a young child putting more food in their mouth than you (or their parent) is comfortable with. Choking is a top fear of parents, and with good reason–every year 57 children die of choking (from ages 0-14) and it accounts for over 12,000 hospital visits each year. The majority of these visits result in a quick release, 10 percent end in a admittance to the hospital for complications (aspiration, etc.).
Looking at those stats, educating yourself on choking hazards and how to prevent it seems worth a look! Most choking incidents involve food, not toys, although it is always important to watch children while playing for loose parts and inappropriately sized toys. The top foods that children (non-fatally) choke on are as follows:
1. Hard candy
2. Other candy (gum or gummy type, caramels, etc)
4. Bone from meat
5. Fruits and vegetables
Interestingly, hot dogs are under their own category, not the meat category, and they were very low on the list (they don’t occur until number 11). This may be because caregivers are very aware of the hazards of hot dogs and do cut them up, or because the study is on non-fatal choking incidents, and a hot dog slice lodged in the throat does often result in a fatality.
Children under the age of two lack the molars to grind on tough pieces of food, so the common choking hazards are a bit different for them. They include: formula/milk/breast milk, seeds/nuts, biscuits (baby-type biscuits), fruits and vegetables, candy (not hard candy)
While knowing the most common foods children choke on is important, basic choking prevention is also important in protecting your children. Here are some simple ways to prevent choking during meal and snack time:
1. Supervise, supervise, supervise!
Don’t leave children unattended during mealtime. Avoid car snacks while children are younger, as it is very difficult to intervene in the event of choking while driving.
2. Mealtime and snack time are a time to sit down.
Don’t allow children to run, jump, play, lay down, or wander around while eating. Insist that they sit during mealtime.
3. Encourage children to chew food well.
Educate children to eat slowly and chew each bite before taking another.
4. Cut up food appropriately.
Give your children proper-sized pieces of food based on their age, paying close attention to meat, which can be difficult to chew.