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Monday, July 13, 2009

Choking and Children: What to Know and How to Avoid It

By Katie M

My son, Henry, definitely has nine lives, maybe more. He is only 2½ and his little body seems to attract accidents. He's already had a trip to the emergency room (see my blog on "Things to Know in a Dental Emergency"). And while that was frightening, the worst scares we've had (and they have been numerous, unfortunately) are his near-choking episodes.

The latest choking episode happened just the other weekend. We went to visit friends in Wilmington and brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with us to the beach. At first Henry wouldn’t eat his sandwich because all he wanted to do was play. So we told him he had to take a few more bites before he could play with the big kids. In the excitement to get lunch over with, he must have stuffed his little mouth with too much of the sandwich because the next thing I saw (and this happened within seconds) was him falling over face-first in the sand as a result of choking.

I immediately jumped up and did something they always tell you NOT to do – I stuck my finger back in his mouth, hooked my finger, and pulled out the sandwich. Luckily, the sandwich wasn’t lodged in his throat (although it was blocking his airway), and my finger hook method worked. Please know that every doctor will tell you NOT to do this because of the dangers of lodging the obstruction further down the air pipe. But sometimes panic supercedes reason, like it did in this case. And fortunately we were lucky this time.

Choking is one of my biggest fears. Despite the fact that I am obsessed with chopping up my children's food into teeny, tiny bites, these situations can still occur - and lots of times it's not due to big chunks of food - but rather foreign objects or swallowing too much food at once.

If choking is your biggest fear as well, read on. I went online and found some information from the American Academy of Pediatrics, including lists of potentially dangerous foods and non-food items for children under age 4, and tips for parents to prevent your child from choking. All of this information is found below.

Additionally, our Smarty Sponsor Brenner Children's Hospital is offering a free CPR course on Saturday, October 24th from 1 to 4 pm. (Be sure to get this on your calendar now so you won't forget!). This free, three-hour class taught by certified CPR instructor and BestHealth nurse, Kim Nelson-Wood, includes CPR for adults and children. This class cannot be taken for professional certification. For more information, go online to

Best Health also offers helpful information and steps online for performing the Heimlich Maneuver on infants, children, adults, and yourself.

Potentially Dangerous Foods for Children Under Age 4
• Hot dogs
• Nuts and seeds
• Chunks of meat or cheese
• Whole grapes
• Hard, sticky candy
• Popcorn
• Chunks of peanut butter
• Raw vegetables
• Chewing gum
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

Potentially Dangerous Nonfood Items for Young Children
• Balloons
• Coins
• Marbles
• Toys with small parts
• Toys that fit into a child's mouth
• Small balls
• Pens or marker caps
• Small button-type batteries
• Medicine syringes
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

Tips for Parents: Prevent Your Child from Choking
• Keep children seated while they are eating. Don't let them walk or run with food in their mouths.
• Cut food for infants and small children into pieces no larger than one-half inch. Tell them to chew food thoroughly.
• Don't allow older children to share "hazardous" foods with younger siblings.
• Keep toys and household items with small parts out of reach of children.
• Pay attention to age recommendations made on toy packaging; often these designations reflect an assessment of potential choking hazards.
• Keep the area between furniture cushions clean: If children find small items there, they are likely to put them into their mouths.
• Prohibit infants and young children from handling coins.
• Enroll in an approved course in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) so that you can manage an emergency situation should one arise.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

Please share any additional thoughts, concerns, or questions below!

Smarties, take note: This Friday is the last day to sign up for the fabulous FREE family portrait session with Andrea Halsey Photography! This promotion ends at Noon on Friday, July 17 and the winner will be announced on July 19. You must be a Triad Smarty Pants newsletter subscriber to enter. Just click here to register. Good luck!


Kim said...

How scary! I will put that CPR class on my calendar. I need to do that for my own sanity!

Anonymous said...

As the parent of a child who choked at daycare, I would strongly encourage anyone with a child in daycare or preschool to verify that the teacher is educated in how to properly handle choking.

Fortunately, my son's teacher was trained and handled it quickly and correctly (even with 9 other kids in the class).

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