Preventing young children from choking on food

To prevent your child from choking, use care when you select and prepare food. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that round, firm foods should not be given to children younger than age 4 unless the food is chopped completely.1 Foods that can be choking hazards include:

  • Seeds (for example, sunflower or watermelon).
  • Nuts.
  • Popcorn.
  • Hot dogs.
  • Chunks of peanut butter.
  • Raw vegetables.
  • Raisins.
  • Whole grapes.
  • Chunks of meat or cheese.
  • Hard or sticky candy.
  • Chewing gum.
  • Fruit chunks, such as apple chunks.

Prepare food for young children in ways that reduce their risk of choking. Some examples include:

  • Fruit with skins or pits, such as apples or apricots. Remove pits and peel fruits before giving them to your child. Fruits can also be diced or cooked and mashed.
  • Fish or chicken with bones. Carefully cut the meat off the bone and then into small pieces. Check meat thoroughly for any signs of bones.
  • Peanut butter. A spoonful of peanut butter can block the windpipe. Peanut butter can also stick to the lining of the throat and windpipe, making a child unable to breathe. Only allow peanut butter that is spread thinly on a slice of bread or a cracker.
  • Hot dogs, sausage, and small sausages (such as Vienna sausages). Slice and dice these meats. You may want to remove the skin before cutting them.
  • Grapes. Peel and mash grapes before serving.
  • Beans (green, string, lima, kidney, and others the size of a marble or larger). Mash before serving.
  • Peas. Although peas are small individually, a child who eats more than one pea at a time may choke.
  • Whole carrots. A child may break off too big of a bite and choke. Cook carrots and cut them into smaller pieces or cut raw carrots into thin slices.

Citations

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics (2007). Parenting corner Q and A: Choking prevention. Available online: http://www.aap.org/publiced/BR_Choking.htm.

Last Updated: February 26, 2009

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