The basics of choking hazards for babies
As parents, all we want to do is keep our children safe. But how do you know if you’re missing something? I know firsthand that it is so easy to miss something you may not realize is a hazard! I recently read that popcorn was unsafe for children under 4 years old because kernels can easily be aspirated. Reading a story about an affected 3 year old brought me to tears! My son loved popcorn and is only 1 ½ years old! “How could I have missed this?” I thought to myself. I knew I had to do more research on food safety and other choking hazards to avoid any other unnecessary risks! Now, you will have all the information you need, too!
One of the biggest reasons that extra precautions should be made for toddler foods is that the first set of molars doesn’t develop until about 1.5 years of age and the full set of teeth isn’t complete until 3 years of age. Oftentimes, though, even at this stage, children are still learning how to bite and chew properly. Until a child can understand how to take the proper size bite of food and chew it enough to emulsify it for swallowing every time, there are many unnecessary risks which can be avoided.
Choking hazards – Food size and shape
When thinking about what choking hazards might be or what foods could be dangerous for your child to eat, the main things to consider are size, shape and texture. For size, bite sized pieces are best, think the size of peas to be safe. You should also consider the shape. Round foods which match to the shape of the throat, like whole grapes or hot dogs, should be cut into quarters to avoid blocking the airway if not properly chewed. Thick but soft foods like nut butters in spoonfuls or cheeses can also conform to the shape of the airway and stick there. Things which are difficult to chew such as nuts, carrots or other raw vegetables can also be hazardous.
You can find a list of common food hazards here!
Choking hazards – activity at meal time
Running and playing while eating significantly increases the risk of choking. It is important to make sure children sit for meal and snack times in appropriate chairs in order to avoid unnecessary risk. Avoid eating in car seats or strollers. Children should always sit upright when eating.
Meal time supervision
It is immensely important that children be supervised at all times when eating. There is decreased reaction time if the child is not in your line of sight, so you may not be able to help them until it is too late. Taking too big of a bite or choking on a food can happen very quickly and if the airway is blocked a child will not be able to vocalize to alert you of the problem! This is why eating in the car seat and any other unsupervised eating should be avoided.
Resources for child food safety