Lesser Known Choking Hazards For Toddlers

Last weekend, my 2-year old was invited to her first birthday party. A friend of mine was hosting a BBQ in honour of her son’s 3rd birthday, and she had all those stereotypical birthday party staples – balloons, hotdogs, loot bags.

Now, my friend is highly educated and is trained in first aid, so I was genuinely surprised at the number of very real choking hazards present around 8 toddlers. It made me realize that many well-meaning parents are unknowingly putting their kids in danger every single day. 

Choking is very dangerous- in fact, it’s the 4th leading cause of unintentional death in children under 5. Choking occurs when an object gets lodged in a person’s windpipe or trachea. Unless the object is removed by coughing it up, or by someone administering the Heimlich maneuver or CPR, there is a very real risk of death by asphyxiation as the lungs are deprived of fresh oxygen.

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A toddler’s windpipe is about as wide as a drinking straw, so if something slightly wider than that gets stuck down there, it’s very difficult to get it out. The most dangerous foods for toddlers are those of a certain shape (round) and texture (slightly smushy). These types are most likely to get wedged inside such a tiny pipe and stay there even while a caregiver administers first aid.  Most parents know about the dangers that whole grapes, hard candies, coins and small pieces of Lego pose to their toddlers, but simply haven’t heard yet about the risks of serving some toddler-favourite foods like bananas, raw carrots, and –gasp!- hot dogs.

Kids under 5 should never be given a whole hotdog to eat. The cross-section of a hotdog is the perfect shape to block a little one’s airway completely, and it’s dense enough to get good and stuck there. Slice hotdogs lengthwise in half or even in quarters, as this changes the shape and makes it less likely to get lodged down a trachea. The same goes for other cylindrical foods like bananas.

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Even more, parents should cook or steam raw vegetables such as carrots to soften them before serving them to your little one. Grapes and cherries should be quartered, and keep away from hard candies like jelly beans and gumdrops altogether. Keep your kid away from broken or uninflated latex balloons- balloons stretch as you blow them up, so if a latex balloon finds its way down a windpipe, no amount of Heimlich will get it out.

And lastly, teach your toddler good eating habits to prevent them from choking in the first place; make sure kids are sitting down with their backs up straight to eat and teach them to chew food slowly and thoroughly.

RELATED: Mom Issues Warning To Fellow Parents After Her Daughter's Near-Fatal Choking Incident

Some might call me overprotective – but hey, it’s my job to look out for my kid until she’s old enough to make the right decisions on her own. Hot dogs and bananas are amongst her favourite foods, and she has been known to throw fits having to wait while I slice them up– but I won’t ever give in and let her eat them without doing so.

If you’re guilty of one of the choking hazards offences that I highlighted, I’m not judging you. We parents do the best we can; no one is perfect, and we can all learn from each other. But if I’ve scared you into quartering hotdog wieners from now on until your kids are well into their teens … then my work here is done.

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