Kids are notorious for sticking random items into random places, including their own mouths, because it's how they explore the world. There are some things that are generally harmless for kids to put in their mouths, like randomly deciding to try a leaf, but parents can become overstressed trying to determine what poses the biggest threat. Here are some of the five most common objects that kids can choke on, which parents can easily keep an eye out for.
When it comes to both food and non-food items, a gag reflex often protects children from choking. But, because a child's windpipe is about the size of a drinking's straw diameter, according to the New York State's Department of Health, a gag reflex doesn't erase the hazards of choking.
Choking is a leading cause of injury among children and can be fatal, especially in children 4 years of age or younger, according to the American Academy of Pediatricians. New York State's Department of Health reports that at least one child dies from choking on food every five days in the U.S., and more than 12,000 children are taken to the emergency room each year for food-choking injuries. Most of the time, choking hazards are thought of as strictly non-food items, but it's important to keep food choking injuries in mind. Because of that, here are the five most common food and non-food choking hazards for kids.
Whole, Uncut Foods
Fruits like grapes are an easy, convenient snack for kids, but they also pose a choking hazard, according to Nationwide Children's. When kept whole, it's easy for a kid to put an entire grape into their mouth, and accidentally swallow it without chewing.
The same goes for firm fruits, like apples. Family Education recommends cutting firm fruits into small, manageable pieces or cooking them until they're mushy, like applesauce.
In fact, cutting food into pieces is a good rule of thumb to have overall. Nationwide Children's recommends cutting food into pieces no larger than one-half-inch. That goes for hot dogs, too, which can pose a great choking risk if left whole. And for those who prefer eating seeded fruits, be sure to remove all seeds before giving a grape to a child!
Batteries have been targeted by two studies in Pediatrics as choking risks, with a focus on the small lithium cell batteries (button batteries). These batteries are found in a variety of small household devices, like alarm clocks and even children's toys.
More than 40,000 children under the age of 13, with 72 percent being 4 years or younger, went to the ER for battery-related injuries between 1997 and 2010, according to the CDC. Even batteries that are "dead" or otherwise discarded can pose harm; not only as a choking hazard, but because the actual electrical currents can still be a risk.
Dr. Jennifer Lightdale, a pediatric gastroenterologist, wrote for the American Academy of Pediatrics Voices, "The electrical current of the battery quickly begins to burn through to other nearby important structures in the chest, such as the aorta or the trachea."
Loose batteries should be kept boxed up and out of a child's reach. Any battery compartments should be firmly taped shut on all electronic items, so little hands won't be able to open them.
This might seem surprising to people, so just take a second to imagine what happens when animals, like dogs, are given peanut butter. Dogs don't really chew and peanut butter can't be chewed all that well, anyway. What ends up happening is the peanut butter gets stuck to the roof of their mouths. But, for kids who also can't or forget to chew, there's a risk of peanut butter doing more than just getting stuck to the roof of their mouth.
Sticky foods, which include taffy, gummy candies, and marshmallows, as listed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, are too hard to swallow. Gum can also be regarded as a sticky food and shouldn't be given to kids, mainly because it's too easy to swallow.
For kids over one year old, Family Education suggests the safest way to eat peanut butter is to spread it in a thin layer on crackers or bread, with something to drink.
Magnets are a fun way to decorate appliances but, according to Baby Gooroo, they're also a choking hazard.
There were 200 documented reports of children needing emergency surgery to remove magnets in 2008 alone. In 2012, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned sales of magnetic desk toys from store shelves.
Listed in the CPSC's report were pediatricians speaking to the danger these products posed for children. The American Academy of Pediatrician's President, Robert W. Block, said, "The powerful, tiny magnets contained in these toys and other similar products have caused unnecessary surgeries, debilitating injuries, irreversible gastrointestinal damage and other lifelong health impacts in infants, children and adolescents.”
It's best to just remove magnets from the home or put them high enough that it's guaranteed a child won't be able to reach them.
For foods that are hard and easy to swallow whole, like nuts, it's best to avoid them completely until a child is old enough to chew. This includes hard candy, too!
Imagine all the times you've eaten hard candy. It's easy for the candy to start sliding back down your throat; adults sometimes have to cough it back up themselves. So, for little children, it's simply not worth the risk.
For anyone wondering what to do if a child is choking, CPR Kids TV has a handy tutorial on Youtube, which includes what to do for both babies and toddlers. But in general, if there's any doubt about whether or not a food or item poses a choking hazard, there's no harm in simply refraining from giving it to children.
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