Common foods that may cause choking in small children

Common foods that may cause choking in children under 4 years old.


Some foods are easy for young children to choke on when swallowing because they are the same size and shape as a child’s airway.  For example, peanuts may block the lower airway.  A chunk of hotdog or a whole grape may completely block the upper airway.   In general, you should avoid serving foods that are wide as a nickel, which is about the size of a young child’s throat.  Foods that are likely to cause choking come in many shapes, sizes and textures.  They include foods that are round, tube shaped, small, hard, thick and sticky, smooth, slippery or easily molded to stick to the airway.  For many of these foods you can avoid choking by changing their shape, size and texture before offering them to children.   An especially scary, yet often overlooked choking hazard is ice cubes.  Many of which are too big for small children, nearly impossible to remove and might not melt fast enough to avoid blocking the airways.

Below is a list of some common foods that might cause choking:

*Firm, smooth, or slippery foods that slide down the throat before chewing;

-whole grapes, cherries, berries, melon balls, grape tomatoes, whole pieces of canned fruit, peanuts, whole beans, hard or round candy or jelly beans.

*Small, dry, or hard foods that are difficult to chew and easy to swallow whole , such as:

-popcorn, hard pretzels, potato and corn chips, or other small snack foods, small pieces of raw vegtables (like carrots, stringbeans, celery or other partially cooked or hard vegtables), apples or other hard raw fruit, cooked or raw whole-kernel corn, plain wheat germ, whole-grain kernels (like rice or wheat berries), crackers or breads with seeds, nut pieces or whole grain kernels.

*Sticky or tough foods that do not break apart easily and are hard to remove the airway such as;

-Chunks or spoonfuls of peanut butter or nut and seed butters, large hard pieces of uncooked dried fruits or vegatbles, large chunks of cheese or string cheese, fish with bones, marshmallows, chewing gum, chewy fruit snacks, carmels, gum drops or sticky candy.

Here are some suggestions to alter these foods and avoid the risks.

-Cook foods until soft enough to pierce with a fork.

-Cut foods into thin slices or small long pieces-NOT small disks.  For example cut hot dogs length wise.

-Remove all bones before cooking .

-Grind up meats before cooking.

-Cook foods like carrots and celery until soft then cut into strips.

-Mash or puree foods.

-Remove pits and seeds

-Cut grapes and like size fruits and vegatables in half lengthwise.

Spread peanut butter very thin onto crackers or mix with applesauce.  Use creamy not chunky peanut butter.

-Chop peanuts and seeds and mix with other foods.

Not only is it a good idea to eat together for your child’s social development, but meal and snack time supervision is equally important because a choking child might not make any noise.  Children should be seated in an upright position and not distracted by tv, computer etc. which could promote distracted larger mouthfuls.  Encouraging your child to chew completely, swallow before taking another bite and take smaller bites are great habits all around.  Not only is it a safer way to eat but conscience eating that is at a slower pace allows your child to mentally register when he/she is full and avoid overeating.  Likewise, eating “on the run” or in the car not only promotes eating beyond being full but the driver cannot immediately tend to a choking child.


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