When can I stop worrying about choking hazards with food?

Baby isn’t new to this whole “eating” game anymore. After all, they have been able to bite off bits of food since those first little teeth came in, but does that mean you no longer have to worry about choking?

Children under the age of 4 are the age group most likely to choke on food, so it’s still important to stay watchful and make sure their foods are served appropriately, and with an eye for choking hazards, for a while longer. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends food be cut into pieces no larger than half an inch – especially round and hard foods.

Until Baby has had enough practice chewing with their molars, which won’t be for another couple of years, it’s very important to monitor mealtime to minimize the risk of choking.

The following foods are considered common choking hazards:

  • Hot dogs
  • Sausages
  • Chunks of cheese and meat
  • Popcorn
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts
  • Chewy foods
  • Sticky foods
  • Chewing gum

Hot dogs and sausages should always be cut lengthwise before chopping and servings. Peanut butter should be spread thin, or even thinned out with water. Avoid snacks like popcorn, gum, and other chewy treats at this age.

In addition to ensuring food is properly served, here are some additional safety tips for snack and mealtime:

  • Stay seated: Make sure all eating is done sitting down and not on the go. Remind Baby it is very important not to run or jump with food in their mouth.
  • Supervise: Though choking is often associated with loud, hard fits of coughing, it can also be silent if the food has fully blocked the windpipe. Be sure to watch as they eat at all times. And while it can be a tempting timesaver, it’s safest to avoid offering meals and snacks in the car.
  • Eat slowly: Encourage them to take small bites of food, and to not put too much food in their mouth at once. This may take practice, but eventually, they'll understand the importance of not eating too quickly.
  • Be prepared: In the event of an emergency, call or have someone else call 911 immediately, as there is no time to waste when it comes to choking. If you haven’t done so already, register for a CPR course in your area so you are able to assist if your child needs help.

Accidents can happen at any time, but the more practice Baby gets with chewing and eating, the safer they'll become.

  • “Choking first aid for kids.” Raising Children. Raising Children Network, September 21 2016. Retrieved August 17 2017. http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/pip_choking.html.
  • “Choking Prevention.” HealthyChildren. The American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved August 17 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/injuries-emergencies/Pages/Choking-Prevention.aspx. 

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