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Choking is a leading cause of death and injury among young children

Because babies and young children will always love to put things in their mouths, parents have to stay on their toes to keep their kids safe. Choking is a leading cause of injury and death among children in the U.S., especially kids younger than 4 years of age. The majority of choking-related incidents among children involve food, coins and small toys or toy parts.

Sadly, a child will die every five days in the U.S. after choking on food. Although some food manufacturers voluntarily place warning labels on high risk products, many pediatricians and other experts believe that safety standards should be implemented for all high risk foods in regard to choking.

Experts note that although toy manufacturers are required to place warning labels on toys that pose choking hazards, there are no such regulations on high risk foods. Since children are much more likely to put food in their mouths than a toy, warning labels on foods could help prevent some choking injuries and deaths.

A new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and published in the February 22, 2010 online issue of Pediatrics, takes a closer look at preventing choking among children. According to the policy statement, the AAP recommends:

  • Warning labels on foods that pose a high choking risk
  • A recall of food products that pose a significant choking hazard
  • The establishment of a nationwide food-related choking-incident surveillance and reporting system
  • A commitment from food manufacturers to design new food and redesign existing food to minimize choking risk, to the extent possible

Parents and caregivers should also be aware of foods that could be choking hazards. Foods like grapes, popcorn and nuts can easily become lodged in a young child’s throat or lungs. Hot dogs pose the greatest risk, as they cause more choking deaths than any other food. Because of its shape, a hot dog can wedge itself tightly in a child’s airway.

To keep children safe and to reduce the risk of choking, the following safety tips have been developed for moms, dads, and caregivers:

  • Don’t give children younger than four any round, firm foods unless they have been cut into very small pieces.
  • Cut hot dogs lengthwise and cut grapes into quarters before serving them to children. This changes the round shape of the food, making it less likely to become wedged in a child’s airway. 
  • Don’t give toddlers other foods that pose a high risk for choking, such as hard candy, nuts, and seeds 
  • Never allow small children to run, play or lie down while eating.
  • Keep coins and other small items out of reach of young children.
  • Carefully read warning labels on toys before giving them to young children.
  • To check if a part of a toy is too small, use a small parts test device, which is available at many toy stores.

Additionally, parents and caregivers should learn first aid for choking and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to be fully prepared in the event that a choking episode occurs.

The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.