For many young children, anything they can reach will go directly in their mouths. This is a particular danger because small parts from toys or food can block a small child’s ability to breathe, especially if they are younger than age 4. In 2008, nearly 1,300 children ages 14 and under died from airway obstruction injuries, which include unintentional choking, strangulation or suffocation. Nearly all of these incidents, 9 out of every 10, involved children under 5 years of age.
Many choking incidents in young children involve food. To avoid this, parents and caregivers should always supervise young children while they’re eating and never give children under age 3 small, round foods such as hot dogs, candies, nuts, grapes, carrots and popcorn. Other common choking hazards include coins, buttons, small balls and toys with small parts.
Keep small objects that are potential choking hazards out of your child’s reach. Literally get down on your hands and knees and crawl around to see what your child can reach. You’ll be surprised at how much is at your child’s eye level.
Other airway obstruction dangers such as suffocation, especially for sleeping infants, and strangulation are also serious hazards for young children. There are eleven tips to help prevent choking, suffocation and strangulation that all parents should know:
- If an object can fit through a standard toilet paper tube or a store-bought small parts tester, do not let your child play with it.
- All parents and caregivers should learn CPR and first aid for airway obstruction. In a few hours, parents can learn effective skills that can make the difference between life and death.
- Lay your baby on his or her back to sleepto reduce the risk of suffocation.
- Babies should not share an adult bed or any other unsafe sleep environment (such as a couch, sofa, armchair or waterbed) with another person. A safe alternative is to have the baby sleep in a crib in the same room as the adults.
- Use a safe crib with a firm, tight-fitting mattresscovered with a crib sheet and nothing else in it.
- Before getting a used crib, check to see if it has been recalled at www.recalls.gov. Look for hazards like crib slats that are more than 2 3/8 inches apart (width of a soda can), gaps larger than two fingers width between the sides of the crib and the mattress, and drop side latches that could be easily released by your baby.
- Do not put your baby to sleep on beds, sofas, recliners, chairs, soft surfaces, bouncy chairs, baby swings, or car seats.
- Do not use pillows, loose sheets or blankets, stuffed toys, crib bumpers, sleep positioners, and other soft bedding products.
- Be aware of openings that permit the passage of a child’s body but are too small for his or her head, such as bunk beds, cribs, playground equipment, baby strollers, carriages and high chairs. These can lead to entrapment and strangulation.
- Move all cribs, beds, furniture and toys away from windows and window cords and keep these out of the reach of children.
- Consider using cordless window products in your home if you have children. If you live in a building where contractually you’re not allowed to replace your window coverings, consider following basic window cord safety rules and ordering free retrofit kits from the Window Covering Safety Council at www.windowcoverings.org.
Common items that strangle young children include clothing drawstrings, toy cords, pacifier strings, and window blind and drapery cords. Review all your window blinds and draperies again because children are still becoming entrapped in cords. Babies in cribs near windows can get tangled in the looped cords while sleeping or playing and toddlers trying to look out a window can climb on furniture, lose their footing and get caught in the window cords.
For more information about preventing airway obstruction, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at firstname.lastname@example.org. Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.