When your child starts choking, mealtime can turn to panic time in seconds. Even if hot dogs, the most hazardous due to their compressible cylindrical size, aren’t on the menu, young children face high-risks with other foods such as hard candy, peanuts, seeds, whole grapes, raw carrots, apples, popcorn and marshmallows, according to Dr. Heather Cadena, a Trenton pediatrician.
“More than half of pediatric choking deaths come from food-related choking, so supervision of younger kids and avoiding risky foods is very important,” says Cadena.
And the No. 1 no-no outside the kitchen? “Latex balloons. These can easily conform to the airway and create an airtight seal.”
Though it might seem impossible to completely childproof your home, there are a few key things parents can do to help ensure a happier and safer environment for your little one.
Do gradually introduce age-appropriate foods. “Babies should start solids by practicing with purees around 6 months,” Cadena recommends. “At 9 months, table food can be introduced. I tell parents to start with soft solids around the size of a pea.”
Don’t let them get distracted. The American Academy of Pediatrics tells parents to keep their child focused when eating. Engaging in high activity, like walking, running, talking or laughing, during meals may increase their risk of choking.
Do separate play areas. Cadena also suggests that young children with older siblings have a separate play area away from any tinier play pieces or toys with detachable parts. Keep older children’s toys in a tightly-sealed box out of your toddler’s reach.
Don’t assume safety. Before giving your child a new toy, always check the age label and feel for any loose or broken parts.
Don’t forget the bedroom. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control strongly recommends keeping soft objects like stuffed animals, blankets and other loose bedding out of cribs as well as steering clear of hanging mobiles overhead.
This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated for 2016.