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Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative

Choking Prevention for Young Children 

In the United States, choking is one of the leading causes of injury and death in children, causing the death of one child every five days. Choking occurs when a child's airway is blocked by an object. Among other items like toys and coins, food is one of the objects that most commonly leads to choking in children. An object's shape, size, and consistency can increase the likelihood of choking. Children ages 3 years and younger are particularly vulnerable to choking risks because younger children are still learning to chew and swallow food and often put new objects in their mouths. Parents and guardians can help prevent their child from choking on food by keeping to the following tips.

Source: pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/3/601

Tips to avoid choking on foods

  • Supervise all meals and encourage children to eat slowly.
  • Ensure that children are seated when eating.
  • Avoid eating in the car when the driver is the only adult present to assist the child if choking does occur.
  • Cut foods into small pieces the size of a nickel.
  • Avoid foods that are easy to choke on. Foods that may be unsafe include hot dogs, chunks of peanut butter, cherries with pits, whole grapes, whole cherry tomatoes, raw vegetables, popcorn, nuts, seeds, marshmallows, gum, or hard candies.
  • Talk to your child's doctor or nurse to learn about what you can do to be prepared in case your child chokes on something.

MCAH Resources:

MyPlate Resources to help individuals achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Tools and handouts encourage children, teens and pregnant and breastfeeding women to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy on their plates every day and be physically active.

Other Resources:

Feeding and Nutrition Tips: Your 2-Year Old 
Provides a list of foods that are unsafe for toddlers due to high choking risk.

Stanford Children's Health 
Details the steps of how to help a choking infant (less than 1 year old) and child (1 to 8 years old).

KidsHealth from Nemours 
Provides a description on how to tell when choking is an emergency, what to do if your child chokes, and how to prevent choking.

Prevention of Choking Among Children for Health Care Providers 
Published in Pediatrics by the Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, this article identifies high-risk foods and eating behaviors that put children at an increased risk for choking.

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