When children begin crawling, or eating table foods, parents must be aware of the dangers and risks of choking. Children younger than 5 years can easily choke on food and small objects.
Choking occurs when food or small objects get caught in the throat and block the airway.This can prevent oxygen from getting to the lungs and the brain. When the brain goes without oxygen for more than 4 minutes, brain damage or even death may occur. Many children die from choking each year. Most children who choke to death are younger than 5 years. Two-thirds of choking victims are infants younger than 1 year.
Balloons, balls, marbles, pieces of toys, and foods cause the most choking deaths.
Read more about choking prevention and first aid.
Do not feed children younger than 4 years round, firm food unless it is chopped completely. Round, firm foods are common choking dangers. When infants and young children do not grind or chew their food well, they may try to swallow it whole. The following foods can be choking hazards:
Nuts and seeds
Chunks of meat or cheese
Hard, gooey, or sticky candy
Chunks of peanut butter
Fruit chunks, such as apple chunks
Keep the following household items away from infants and children:
Toys with small parts
Toys that can be squeezed to fit entirely into a child’s mouth
Pen or marker caps
Small button-type batteries
Make a point to learn the instructions on the following pages of this publication. Post the chart in your home. However, these instructions should not take the place of an approved class in basic first aid, CPR, or emergency prevention. Contact your local American Red Cross office or the American Heart Association to find out about classes offered in your area. Most of the classes teach basic first aid, CPR, and emergency prevention along with what to do for a choking infant or child. Your pediatrician also can help you understand these steps and talk to you about the importance of supervising mealtime and identifying dangerous foods and objects.