Choking is a frightening experience for anyone, but especially for a child. Certain foods pose a higher danger than others, and a child's behavior during eating also affects the level of risk. Familiarize yourself with these top food hazards and protect your child from this danger.
According to the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, hard candy tops the list of choking hazards for children. Over an eight-year period, hard candy accounted for 15 percent of the 112,000 children treated for choking in the hospital's emergency room. Another 12.8 percent (13,324 visits) were related to other candy.
Meat had the second highest percentage of risk for children choking. The average age for children treated at Nationwide Children's Hospital was four to five years, and 50 percent were boys. The hospital found reasons for the high meat risk included:
- Children of that age may lack the teeth needed to grind the food properly
- The child may still be learning to chew and not yet have the experience to know when the food is ready to swallow
- Children often don't have the patience to wait until the food is properly ingested before running off to play
Fruits and vegetables
Locally-grown fruits and vegetables may be good for your child, but Nationwide Children's Hospital found that these foods are difficult to chew. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you cut these items into small pieces when you feed them to your child.
Seeds and nuts
Seeds, nuts and shells account for 6.5 percent of emergency room visits at Nationwide. While the majority of children treated for choking on food items were released afterwards, the hospital found that those who choked on nuts and seeds were more likely to be admitted to the hospital than others. These foods are high risk because children typically eat them by the handful, which might result in your child cramming more into his mouth than it is possible to chew before swallowing.
Tips for keeping your child safe
- Be vigilant about the type of foods your child eats and the way he eats them.
- Make sure you know what your child is putting in his mouth during playtime and between meals, which is when children typically snack on candy, nuts and seeds.
- Oversee your child's mealtimes and teach him to chew food thoroughly before swallowing it.
- Don't allow your child to walk around, run, play or lie down with food in his mouth.
- Teach your child to take small, manageable mouthfuls that can be chewed properly before swallowing.
- Educate your child to be particularly careful about small, hard items such as seeds and nuts.
Get your Atlanta-area family physician to teach you the techniques you need to rescue your child if he should choke on food, so you're prepared for any situation in which you might need to help.