As parents, and a parent myself, one of our top priorities is to keep our children safe. And one of those ways is to help prevent children choking on food, household items, and other small objects that a child will come into contact with.
Unfortunately, it can be challenging to identify all the potential dangers around the home, especially when it comes to choking hazards.
Choking is one of the leading causes of injury and death in young children, and it can happen in a matter of seconds. In this article, I will look at some of the common choking hazards for children around the home and provide tips on how to prevent them.
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Table of Contents
The Stats – Choking
According to the Royal Society of Prevention of Accidents, 1 child every month dies as a direct result of a choking event in the UK every single year, with many more being hospitalised as a result of choking or swallowing something they shouldn’t.
All of these deaths are entirely preventable, as are the hospitalisations.
How To Prevent Children Choking
Prevention is always better than the cure. Here’s some simple tips to help prevent children choking.
Food is one of the most common choking hazards for children.
Young children are still learning how to chew and swallow their food properly, and they are at a higher risk of choking.
Some of the common foods that can pose a choking hazard for young children include nuts, popcorn, small sweets, grapes, hot dogs, and raw carrots.
It is important to supervise young children while they are eating and avoid giving them these foods until they are old enough to handle them safely.
Toys can also pose a choking hazard for children, especially if they contain small parts or if they can be taken apart easily.
Parents should always check the age recommendations on toys and avoid giving young children toys that are intended for older children.
You should also buy toys from reputable sellers and check that the toys conform to British or European safety standards, and have the CE or UKCA accreditation.
It is also important to inspect toys regularly for any signs of wear and tear and discard any broken toys immediately.
Household items such as coins, buttons, and small batteries can also pose a choking hazard for young children.
It is essential to keep these items out of reach and out of sight of young children.
Make sure to store small items in secure containers, avoid leaving them lying around where children can easily access them, and dispose of them when they have expired or are dead.
Medications can also pose a choking hazard for young children.
Children may mistake pills for sweets or other small objects and put them in their mouth, which can lead to choking or poisoning.
Parents should always keep medications out of reach of children and store them in secure containers.
It is also important to dispose of any expired or unused medications properly.
Children love balloons. But did you know, balloons are another common choking hazard for young children?
When a child bites or chews on a balloon, it can burst and get stuck in their throat, blocking their airway.
It is important to supervise young children when they are playing with balloons and avoid giving them balloons that are not fully inflated or that have been popped.
How To Spot When A Child Is Choking
There’s important distinctions to make to decide whether your child is choking or not, based on their age.
Obviously with babies, they do not comprehend the world around them, and nor can they communicate.
A baby who is experiencing a choking event may cough naturally, but sometimes they won’t be able to cough due to the blockage:
- Go still.
- Go silent.
- Their face and lips may turn blue.
It’s important to distinguish between choking and gagging. Gagging will be loud, their facial expression will change dramatically, tears may begin to form in their eyes and it’s a totally normal bodily response, as they get used to food.
For Toddlers And Small Children
Toddlers and small children have much more of a comprehension of the world around them, and understand consequence.
A toddler or small child is more likely to:
- Panic when they realise they have something stuck in their throat.
- Will naturally try and breath and cough, often violently.
- Will go red, have tears in their eyes, and will eventually start going blue.
What To Do In A Choking Event
It’s a ridiculous thing to say, but try and stay calm.
If you panic, the panic is then transferred to the child, which will make things worse.
For small babies, it is important you act fast, and take appropriate steps to clear the blockage, as per official NHS advice:
- Call for help immediately, and remove the baby from the chair or high chair.
- Using the length of one of your forearms, place the baby on your forearm supporting their chest, in a downright position ensuring fingers support the chin. (Note: If you cannot do this, do the same with your thingh. Sit down in an upright position, or on your knees, and place the baby on your thighs, with their head just poking past your knee, using one hand to support their head, and the other to sharply strike their back).
- Give 5 sharp slaps on their back (between shoulder blades) with the heel of your hand.
- Reassess, and restart.
- Ring 999 if the situation deteriorates.
The effect this has is split between gravity doing its natural thing, and air being helped up the windpipe and throat in a dynamic and fluent manner, helping to dislodge any blockage.
The images below shows the absolute perfect way to hold the baby, where to place your hands, and what part of the hand should strike their back and where:
For older children, the technique is very similar, but because of their bigger shape and size, you won’t be able to do the above.
Instead, place them across your lap, and give them sharp blows between the shoulder blades.
If this isn’t possible, have them in a standing position, in a forward leaning postion where the top half of their body is at a 90 degree angle to their legs.
Once you have given 5 sharp, quick blows, reassess, and perform the technique again, and call 999 if the situation doesn’t improve.
Preventing choking hazards for young children requires a combination of supervision, preparation and forward thinking.
Prevention is always better than the cure.
Here are some tips to help keep your child safe:
- Supervise young children while they are eating: Young children should always be supervised while they are eating to ensure that they are chewing and swallowing their food properly. Avoid giving young children foods that can pose a choking hazard, and cut up foods into small pieces if necessary. For babies, food should be blended into a mush like substance.
- Buy toys only from reputable sellers: Ensure they have the appropriate CE or UKCA markings on so they meet safety standards.
- Inspect toys regularly: Inspect your child's toys regularly for any signs of wear and tear or damage. Discard any broken toys immediately and avoid giving young children toys that contain small parts or that can be taken apart easily.
- Keep small items out of reach: Keep small items such as coins, buttons, and batteries out of reach of young children. Store them in secure containers and avoid leaving them lying around where children can easily access them.
- Store medications properly: Store medications in secure containers and keep them out of reach of children. Dispose of any expired or unused medications properly.
- Supervise children while playing with balloons: Balloons are fun, but can also pose a big danger. Always supervise young children when they are playing with balloons and avoid giving them balloons that are not fully inflated or that have been popped.
- First aid training: Learning basic first aid skills can help you respond quickly in the event of a choking emergency. Take a first aid class to learn the proper techniques for performing first aid on young children. Some community groups will do it free of charge every so often, just Google 'Free first aid course' plus the name of your local area.
A choking event can be sudden, can take you by surprise and is not a pleasant situation to be in.
The likelihood is, that at some point, you will experience a choking event with a child in your care. If you do, it's important not to panic, but to take positive corrective action in a timely manner.
Ante natal classes that are given free of charge throughout the pregnancy stage is a worthwhile and important class to go to, for both expectant mothers and fathers. Here, you will learn the basics of what to do in such an emergency, so it's imperative that you take time to go to these classes.
If you haven't been to these classes, it's worthwhile booking onto a first aid course. Part of the first aid course will go through an event like a child choking, and you'll have the opportunity to be taught and to have hands on experience using the techniques described above.
Not only that, but you'll pick up some basic life saving skills too. Simply use Google to search for any free first aid courses near to your home.
Other Articles You May Like
Here's a small selection of articles you may also like from this site:
- - CE and UKCA Safety Accreditation
- - Best Medicine Box Storage
- - Battery Disposal
- - Kitchen Safety For Kids
Here's the sources used for this article:
- - RoSPA - Children Choking
- - NHS Choking - The Signs
- - NHS - What To Do When A Child Chokes
- - Red Cross First Aid Training
Questions & Comments
If you have a question or a comment on this article on how to prevent children choking, please use the comments box below.
I'll try my best to reply to each and every one of your questions, comments and suggestions.
Stay Safe. Stay Secure.