Recognizing and Preventing Choking
by Courtney Ilarraza, Founder of Baby Bodyguards
We started Baby Bodyguards over 11 years ago after two acquaintances had children who experienced severe injury and death. These tragedies could easily have been prevented by taking some precautions. We set out on a safety crusade educating parents on proper safety measures and helping them install necessary safety devices in their homes.
One of our acquaintances was watching her grandchildren in her home. The kids ages 5 and 2 were bouncing around on the living room couch watching cartoons. There was a bowl of fruit on the coffee table. While she was on a phone call in the kitchen, her 2-year-old grandson choked on a grape and passed away. I always tell this chilling story during our Infant and Child CPR and Safety Class because I want to get the point across that a choke that would require Heimlich Maneuver is always silent. Young children should always be supervised while they are eating. Grandma didn’t realize anything was wrong from the other room because no sound was made. Grapes are also one of the top foods on our Dangerous Food List (see below). They are okay to be eaten but should be cut in quarters. If a child is coughing and making sounds, this is a mild choke, and we just stand by, to see if it turns into a silent choke requiring the Heimlich Maneuver.
Dangerous Food List
Do not feed children younger than 4 years round, firm food unless it is cut up completely. Dangerous foods include:
Nuts and seeds
Chunks of meat and cheese
Hard, sticky or gooey candy
Chunks of peanut butter
Dangerous Household Items
Keep the following household items away from infants and children:
Toys with Small Parts
Toys that can be squeezed to fit into a child’s mouth
Pen or marker caps
Small button type batteries
Magnets (such as those attached to the back of some toys for fridge)
What You Can Do to Prevent Choking
Learn CPR and Heimlich Maneuver.
Hang bags and coats high on a hook system by the door or in a coat closet.
Insist that kids eat at a table or highchair. They should never walk, run, play or lie down with food in their mouth.
Cut foods for infants and young children, no larger than one-half inch, and teach them to chew their food well.
Supervise mealtime for infants and young children.
Be aware of older children’s actions. Many choking incidents happen when older siblings give their little brother or sister dangerous foods, toys or small objects.
Avoid toys with small parts and keep other small household items out of reach of infants and young children.
Follow age recommendations on toy packages.
Check under furniture and between cushions for small items that a child could put in their mouth.
Do not let infants and young children play with coins.
Be aware that balloons pose a choking risk to children up to 8.