Friday, 4 August 2017

Choking Hazards and Children - Prevention Better than Cure

A sepection of objects that a small child could choke on. When my daughter was small, she choked on a Hula Hoop crisp. It was at our local playgroup and, whilst I was just a few feet away, it was the quick-thinking mum who was nearest who picked her up and slapped her back. She was instantly sick and disaster was very much averted. I was a member of the St John's Ambulance Brigade from the age of 12, so I was trained in first aid from an early age. I have always been relatively confident in emergency situations, but not everyone is, or would be able to remember under pressure. It's also very distressing for the child, and the parent, so this post is about preventing choking situations occurring in the first place.

Some choking hazards are obvious and it's easy to keep them out of reach, such as buttons, marbles, ring pulls (thankfully, the days of these being separate have passed), beads, etc, but some are not things you would necessarily think of. Small children are usually fast and nosy, so it's best not to underestimate their ability to get into such treasure troves as; your purse (or a visitor's), another child's school bag,  the dog's food bowl (particularly if you are visiting somewhere unfamiliar), or a jewellery box. We all child-proof the stairs, the kitchen cupboards, the bathroom, etc, but to be really sure, you have to try to think like a child. Once, in a Child Psychology class, I was told that the best way to childproof a home was to crawl around on your hands and knees and imagine you're a baby!

A selection of objects that can children could choke on.

The next aspect that can sometimes get overlooked is food. For a long time, it was widely assumed that, as food disintegrates in the mouth, it wouldn't cause a problem, hence the Hula Hoop incident. However, this assumes a certain level of chewing, and sometimes children get overwhelmed with the joy of eating and shovel in too much, or eat too quickly, causing lots of opportunity for blockage. Research now suggests that children can choke on something as small as a grape and it's therefore really important to cut food up small and supervise children whilst eating. Some of this advice may sound obvious, but I don't think it hurts to have a reminder, and if one person learns something from it, it's got to be worth it. Hard foods, such as boiled sweets, or nuts, are definitely not suitable for little ones and it's good to remind visiting older children of this, if they are fond of them and have pockets! Also, if you have older children, watch out for stray sweets and other small objects left in the back of the car.

A collage of foods that could cause a problem for young children

Talking of visiting, unfamiliar surroundings are often where accidents happen. It's easy to be distracted, and there may be hazards that you wouldn't face in your own home. I mentioned the dog bowl which, although gross, is often easily accessible and could contain hard dog biscuits. Children often have a totally different grossometer to adults. Also, such delights as Nanna's knitting bag, ashtrays, rubbish bins and cat litter trays could be at toddler level, if it's normally a child-free home. Especially if it's a party, be very wary of balloons. Whether inflated or not, if a child inhales, the balloon, or pieces of it, can get lodged in the back of the throat and it's near impossible to get them out. In the case of an inflated balloon, I have seen babies and toddlers at parties chewing on the outside of a balloon and the parents don't seem aware that if the teeth penetrate the surface, the resulting rush of air, as it pops, could force plastic to the back of the throat, leading to a very serious situation. I know that's a horrible thought, but it's important to know. I once explained to the nice lady in McDonald's why I couldn't allow her to give a balloon to my toddler and she had no idea that it was a risk. There have been several documented cases of balloon deaths in children, yet it still seems underreported. In my view, even if it's a small risk, it's not worth it if it's avoidable.

Two children in a garden, one holding a pair of balloons

I hope you've found these tips useful, I don't want to be alarmist or depressing, but no one wants their child to be a statistic and with visiting and holiday season upon us, it's wise to be aware.

Know your child's potential choking hazards, especially when visiting family



  1. This is some great advice to keep the kiddos safe, thanks!

  2. I think when its your own child any serious first aid they need goes out of the window. I natural to just panic. Thankfully ive never been in a choking incident with any of my 6. I remember choking when I was in high school, I was in year 7 or 8 and was eating a cheese roll, I didn't chew it properly and it got stuck. I ran very quickly to my year head's office and he either hit my back hard or did the heimlich maneuver, cant remember, is some many years ago :)

  3. I try and be super careful with small items. But accidents can happen. I'm super paranoid with grapes I don't even allow them in the house x

  4. I think my husband shovels too much in! Seriously, what an important post. I think it's especially important to know basic first aid if you have children


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