There are few experiences more frightening than seeing your child choking and gasping for air. If you have children you know they are fascinated by all sorts of objects and everything goes straight to their mouth.
Popcorn, balloons, toys are all items you might find in an average home. And, all of these items pose a potential choking hazard, especially in young children, because they can easily lodge in a child's small airway. Anything that fits inside a child's mouth can be a danger.
Choking occurs when suddenly, an object is swallowed, goes down the wrong way, and lodges in the windpipe. The transport of oxygen to the brain is blocked and without oxygen for as little as four minutes brain damage and death can occur.
Children, especially those under age 3, are particularly vulnerable to airway obstruction death and injury due to the small size of their upper airways, their relative inexperience with chewing, and their natural tendency to put objects in their mouths. Infants are also at a greater risk because of their inability to lift their heads or extricate themselves from tight places.
It may surprise you, but a baby's throat can stretch to a width of almost 1.5 inches (4cm). Children can choke on chunks of fruit and vegetables, hot dogs, nuts, hard candies, grapes and popcorn.
Eating does not come naturally
Young children are still learning to eat solid food. From the time children are weaned from the bottle until about the age of four, children are mastering the skill of chewing, swallowing and breathing simultaneously. Mealtime should be kept quiet with no running or playing around. If a child becomes distracted or excited while eating, the food could easily be inhaled into the windpipe.
Children under age four are also more likely to choke on small, hard, smooth food because they do not have the back teeth needed to chew and grind food properly.
The most dangerous are foods such as hot dogs, chunks of cheese, hard candies, nuts, grapes, carrots and popcorn. These can easily form a perfect plug in a child's airway. Make sure that food is an appropriate size for the age of the child, it should be grated, mashed, or chopped into bite sized pieces before being fed to a child.
Peanuts and hard candy should be avoided altogether. An older child is more likely to spit out something that is too hard or large to chew. This doesn't mean a child older than four can't choke; a person of any age can choke on food.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Social and Health Services.
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