How to Protect Your Child from Choking Hazards

In a policy statement published in Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls upon food manufacturers to reduce choking risks for children. Pediatricians want manufacturers to make foods that are known choking hazards safer by changing the size, shape, and/or texture of high risk foods. They also request labeling of such foods with a warning about the potential for choking. Foods such as hot dogs, carrot sticks, grapes, peanut butter, and many others fall into the high risk category because of the frequency of choking incidents among young children involving them.

Universal Choking SignHot dogs can be especially dangerous for young children under the age of 3. The size and shape, along with the ability to compress easily can cause the complete blockage of a child’s airway and can be lodged in too tightly to remove, even with proper medical equipment. According to the AAP policy statement Choking on food causes the death of approximately 1 child every 5 days in the United States. Hot dogs accounted for 17% of food-related asphyxiations among children younger than 10 years of age in a 41-state study.

Whether food manufacturers heed the call to re-design high risk foods or not, parents and child care providers must take responsibility for protecting children against choking on any food. Here are some recommended tips for helping your child eat safely:

  • Cut up food into small pieces, no more than 1/2 inch in diameter.
  • Do not feed children under the age of 4 any hard, smooth, round or firm foods that have to be chewed with a grinding motion without cutting them up into small pieces. Peanuts, grapes, hot dogs, and carrot sticks must be cut up first.
  • Do not let children eat while playing, laughing, walking, or running around.
  • Teach your child to chew food thoroughly and to swallow before talking.
  • Do not feed popcorn, nuts, or hard candy to children under the age of 4.
  • Learn CPR and how to appropriately and safely assist someone who is choking.


5 Responses to “How to Protect Your Child from Choking Hazards”

  1. David Zak says:

    Thank you for bringing this issue to the readers of Pediatric Safety.
    Like you, I’m not sure the AAP will be successful in getting labeling, but whether they do or not, it is still up to parents and caregivers to protect their kids. The Safe Sizer plate can help parents as both a reminder and a food sizing gauge. See the article from last August in Pediatric Safety about our story and our invention.

    David Zak
    Midwest Monkeys

  2. child safety says:

    Hope the baby food will be a bit safer in the future.

  3. I was just reading this in USA Today. I am trying to picture a hot dog in a shape other than it is! I think it is a good idea, but do you think people other than the paranoid first-time moms will buy them? I don’t know? I am definitely one of those paranoid moms (even at kid #3), so would probably entertain the idea. I would like to see what Free-Range people say about this. Just curious.

  4. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

  5. this post is very usefull thx!

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