Hard to Swallow

From the time your child starts picking things up with his or her fingers until the age of five, you’ll need to be vigilant about choking hazards.

Choking is a prominent cause of injury in children, especially in those of four years and younger. Although the number of incidents involving toys and their parts has gone down in the last 20 years due to manufacturer warnings, the number of food choking cases is still high.

Those under five years of age represent two-thirds of all children under 15 who die from choking. For each child that passes away, about 25 children under five are admitted to hospitals due to food aspiration. More than 60 percent of these episodes happens in children of four years and younger.

Studies show that toddlers are particularly at risk because they can bite food better than they can chew. While they bite with their incisors, their back teeth, which are used for chewing and grinding food, are not developed enough. This is one of the reasons why choking incidents decrease as a child gets older.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than five years of age should not be given hard candy or chewing gum. Raw veggies and fruits should be cut into little pieces. Young children should be supervised while eating. Make sure they sit down while taking in food.

According to a study, foods that cause the most choking incidents are hard candy, meats and bones. High-risk foods, including hot dogs, seeds and nuts, were more likely to require hospitalisations. Hot dogs caused almost three percent of the food-related choking cases.

There is a conflict between advocating for children to eat raw, natural and healthy foods and their ability to chew them. It is advised to place warning labels on foods that pose a high choking risk for babies and children.

Call an ambulance if a child is unconscious, choking, wheezing or gasping. Look out for signs like his or her inability to cry, talk or make noise. If the face has turned blue or if the child is grabbing at the throat while looking panicked, he or she is certainly choking.

How to avoid choking in children:
• Have your preschooler eat at the table, or at least while sitting down. Do not let your child run, walk, play, or lie down with food in their mouth.
• Keep a watchful eye on your child while he or she eats.
• Cut food for your preschooler into pieces no larger than half an inch. Teach them to chew their food well.
• Slice hotdogs lengthwise.
• Cut meat and chicken across the grain into small pieces.
• Slice grapes, cherry tomatoes and other round foods in half.
• Cook carrots and celery sticks until slightly soft, grate them, or cut them into small pieces or thin ‘matchsticks’.
• Spread peanut butter thinly on bread or crackers. A thick glob can cause choking.

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