There are very few things as terrifying as seeing your child choke. While I've never experienced a life-threatening choking incident with one of my kids, there have definitely been times when I've had to jump up and pound their backs to quickly dislodge a piece of food they didn't chew enough. If you've ever gone through something similar, you know that heart-stopping feeling. While most parents are well aware of the choking hazard posed by things like grapes, you might not realize that there are lots of other foods that are just as dangerous to toddlers.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), choking is one of the leading causes of death for children under 3. The airway of a child is incredibly tiny — according to the New York State Department of Health, it's only about the width of a drinking straw — so it's easy for it to become blocked off by a piece of food lodged in the throat. That's why it's incredibly important to make sure to cut up your kids' food properly if you're serving any of the items on this list, or wait until they're older and better at chewing properly. You can also help protect your little ones from choking by supervising meal times, and perhaps most important of all, get trained in CPR according to Today's Parent, as well as the Heimlich Maneuver.
Here are 11 foods to be extra careful with during mealtime to make sure you don't end up in an emergency situation.
After grapes, hot dogs might be the most dangerous food item for kids according toThe New York Times. Cutting it into coin-sized slices is more dangerous than leaving it completely uncut, according to Dr. Gary Smith, one of the authors behind the AAP's policy statement on food hazards, The Times reported. If you're going to serve one, make sure to cut it lengthwise first.
Popcorn is a no no for little kids, especially those under the age of 3, according to Parents. In fact, any food that little ones would want to cram into their mouths and eat by the handful poses a big choking risk for kids, the publication cautioned.
Marshmallows may be delicious, but their ooey-gooeyness makes them dangerous for kids to eat according to Nationwide Children's Hospital. Hold off on s'mores until they're older.
4. Raw Carrots
Many parents would be thrilled if their kids willingly sat down to eat some carrots, but if you're serving them raw, watch out. Raw carrots are a choking hazard for kids, according to Mott Children's Hospital. If they're on the menu, be sure to cut them into match stick strips rather than round slices.
5. Peanut Butter
Allergies aren't the only reason to be extra careful with kids and peanuts: they're also a choking risk, Healthy Children noted. Super sticky peanut butter can also pose a danger, because it can lodge in a child's throat.
6. Hard Candy
Most little kids I know are little candy fiends, but hard candies are one of the biggest choking hazards for children according to Today's Parent. Things like gum balls, small, round lollipops, and M&M's could easily block off a child's airway.
7. Bone-In Chicken Or Fish
When you're serving up chicken or fish to your little one, shred it up carefully so no pieces of bone are left. Little bits of bone can get stuck in a child's throat, according to Babble.
8. Melted Cheese
Melted cheese makes up a pretty significant portion of my toddler's diet, and I have to admit I've never really thought of it as a choking hazard. But Baby Center noted that it can stick in a child's throat and cause them to choke, so make sure it's cut up into smaller pieces before serving it to your toddler.
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it could also land you in the ER if you're not careful. Kids Health noted that apples might be too hard for kids under 4 to chew and swallow properly, so you might want to offer up some apple sauce instead.
10. Cheese Cubes
Cheese cubes are another one of my daughter's favorite snacks, but the pre-packaged are awfully big for a toddler's mouth. NBC News noted that chunks of cheese should be no larger than half an inch to keep them safe for kids to eat.
11. Cherry Tomatoes
The perfectly round shape of cherry tomatoes makes them a big choking hazard for kids. If you're serving them to your child, cut them into half-inch pieces first, advised Eat Right.