As per the statistics revealed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), one child dies every five days from choking on food – no wonder choking is the leading cause of death in children under 14 years of age. For these reasons the food industry has long been urged to change the labels and designs of food that pose a choking hazard to children.
Anyone who has ever spent a bit of time around an infant, toddler or a preschooler would testify that these children’s number one priority includes picking things up and putting them in the mouth – no matter how big or small, edible or inedible. You may not like to think about choking, but the fact of the matter is that even certain foods that you give to your child to eat can choke your child.
Remember, statistics show that choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional deaths in children under the age of 5 – and these numbers do not include the several thousand children who are routinely rushed to the hospital with food choking-related injuries on a yearly basis. To keep your child safe, make sure that you avoid giving him these 7 foods that he can choke on:
6 The Low Down on Hot Dogs
Hot dogsare one of the most common foods that children tend to choke on, which is why they’ve long been at the center of attention for pediatricians across the world for this rather ‘unappetizing’ reason – children can choke on them. Research suggests that hot dogs are the top cause of food-related choking in children under 3 years of age – around 17% of these cases are caused by hot dog inhalation.
So what is it that makes hot dogs so dangerous for kids? Although there are many foods that pose a choking risk in young children, what makes hot dogs overly dangerous is the fact that they’re just the right consistency and size to completely block your child’s airway. To put it in simple words, it’s what you can consider ‘the perfect plug’ – it won’t let any air get through, thereby constricting your child’s breathing.
Is there no way I can serve hot dogs to my kid?
Considering how hazardous the consumption of hot dogs can prove to be for children, it is highly recommended for you to refrain from making them for your child to eat. However, if you really want to go ahead with it, make sure that you minimize risk by cutting the hot dogs lengthwise and then chop them up into small, irregular shapes so they may not constrict your child’s airway.
You could also mince or make really thin slices of hot dogs before giving it to your child particularly if he is younger than 4.
5 Hard and Crunchy Chips and Pretzels
Believe it or not, but nearly 4.6% of all food choking-related ER visits are triggered by chips and pretzels. The reason why these food items are so dangerous is because they are rigid and children find it hard to chew them properly. Speaking in general, it’s best for you to avoid giving your little angel anything that is hard or crispy. Chips and pretzels are dry and light enough to lodge dangerously in your child’s airway.
Toddlers in particular find it hard to chew foods with a hard and crispy texture, which is just what leads to choking. Kids who are under 4 years of age are particularly at risk of choking. The reason is that their airways are still small and they have fewer chewing teeth – first molars that are meant to grind food down don’t come in till a child is about 15 months old, whereas second molars come at about 26 months.
Children this young have no eating skills whatsoever besides making an outright mess in a 30-foot radius, so you can’t expect your bundle of joy to master the art of chewing something like chips and pretzels. To be honest, children this young haven’t mastered the whole ‘chewing and grinding’ motion yet and they try to swallow foods whole – and this is what puts them at risk of choking.
No matter what your child is eating, make sure that you make him sit while eating. Running, playing and jumping while eating will increase his risk of choking rather significantly. Also, while he’s eating, make sure that you don’t leave him unattended or rush him while he’s at it. You should also show him how to chew his food properly.
3. Hard Candy and Soft and Chewy Candy
This particular food category includes anything gummy or sticky, such as lollipops, hard candies, square-shaped caramels and chewing gum. These should particularly not be offered to children who are 4 and under for the potential harm that these products pose. The risk of choking basically makes several types of candy totally ‘off limits’ to your kid.
To put it in simple words, all kinds of hard candy can easily get stuck in your child’s windpipe, which is why it is best for you to refrain from giving your child hard candies such as butterscotch and peppermints, until he turns 4. Another type of candy that should not be given to children (particularly toddlers) is jelly beans.
Taffy, gummy candy and caramel are also very dangerous because these can easily slip down your toddler’s throat and make him choke. For the risk that they carry, it is highly recommended for you to avoid giving candy of all sorts to your child, particularly if he isn’t 4-years-old yet.
Other drawbacks of candy and alternatives
Apart from the choking hazard posed by candy, the high sugar content found in them is another reason why these shouldn’t be given to children. Candy is typically high in calories as well, which means their consumption can make your child gain unhealthy weight over time.
Children are naturally drawn to foods that taste sweet so getting him to sway to choose healthier options might be a bit hard. Start with serving small pieces of fresh fruit with melted dark chocolate drizzled over them – not only will it fulfill his desire of the sweet taste, it will also increase the nutritional value of his treat.
4 Nuts and Nut Butter
The consumption of whole nuts is very dangerous for children due to their size and shape. The thing with nuts is that these are typically consumed by children by the handful. In many cases, the handfuls are ‘too full,’ which mean that kids get far more in their mouth than they can handle. It is for this reason that you should avoid giving nuts to your children and if you do, make sure that he eats them under your supervision.
Nuts of all sorts including walnuts. Almonds, macadamias and cashew nuts etc. require some serious chewing and grinding to become small enough for a child to swallow. For this reason, it’s best for you to avoid giving whole nuts to your child entirely till he is at least 7 years old.
If you wish to use nuts in your baby’s diet, make sure that they are processed or ground into small pieces so that your child doesn’t choke on them. Remember, choking is the leading cause of brain injury in young children as even a few minutes without oxygen can result in severe brain damage – as a parent, this is obviously something you do not wish to deal with.
What about nut butter?
Nut butter also poses a major choking hazard especially if it’s thickly spread or in gobs. If you want to give nut butters to your child, make sure that it’s spread in very thin layers. Children under 36 months should not be given large chunks of nut butter – it should only be served to them spread thinly on bread or crackers.
3 Raw Fruits and Vegetables
Statistics show that about 9.7% of all food choking-related ER visits are triggered when children consume raw fruits and vegetables. Quite like the other food items mentioned here, raw fruits and vegetables are hard to chew and there’s always the chance that your child will bite off much more than he can properly chew.
As mentioned before, young children lack the tooth work necessary to grind food properly which is what puts them at higher risk of choking. On top of it, children tend to indulge in different activities while eating, such as jumping and walking, which also makes them more likely to choke on food.
The foods that children are most likely to choke on are those that resemble the shape of their airway or those that are difficult to chew. This particularly includes raw fruits and vegetables because these require a lot of chewing, which is something that your child may not have mastered as of yet.
Cook them up
It’s for this reason that children under 5 years of age should not be fed raw fruits and vegetables unless they’re cut into small pieces – small enough for them to be able to chew properly. Instead of just cutting up apples, pears and other crunchy delights, it’s best for you to grate them and offer them to your child in a confetti pile.
Oh yes, if you want, you can also cook raw fruits and vegetables before serving them to your child. The best part about it is that cooking these will reduce your child’s risk of choking rather significantly.
2 Those Ooey Gooey Marshmallows
Yes, those soft and yummy delights pose a major choking hazard to your child too. This is because soft foods like this can easily get lodged into your child’s throat, thereby constricting his ability to breathe. For this reason, marshmallows should be kept as far away as possible from small children.
There’s no reason to give solid puffs of sugar to your child to eat anyway – kids need nutritious foods as they grow up and that’s something that marshmallows totally fail to deliver. The thing with marshmallows is that these tend to melt when held in the mouth. In case your child inhales it, or has a mouth so full of marshmallows that they melt into his lung, things can turn fatal and there isn’t much you will be able to do.
Why so? Because there is no way to get that sticky mess out of your child’s lungs irrespective of whether he suffocates on it immediately or not. I’m sure this is not something you wish to deal with as a parent, which is why it is best for you to refrain from giving marshmallows to your child. Children at times play this game called, ‘Chubby Bunny,’ in which kids stuff as many marshmallows as possible into their mouths while saying ‘Chubby Bunny’.
Children are not allowed to swallow the marshmallows and the game ends when they can’t stuff anymore into their mouth without gagging or saying Chubby Bunny. This game is very dangerous and can prove fatal for your child because the marshmallows tend to melt in the mouth. The melted marshmallow then seeps down the throat covering the airway and if sealed, there is no way it can be extracted.
1 Popcorn Can Turn Into a Deadly Snack
Nutritionally speaking, popcorn happens to be a healthy alternative to regular potato chips, cookies and other fried or sugary snack. However, for children younger than 5, it can be equally harmful as these pose a serious choking hazard. The problem is the irregular shape and fluffy consistency of popcorn. To make matters worse, your child can easily inhale them without chewing and the pointed and rounded irregular surfaces can get wedged in his throat.
As has already been mentioned, even heavier, odd-shaped foods like snack crackers, pretzels and raisins pose a serious choking hazard to children. Popcorn presents another rather treacherous hazard, be it small flakes or whole pieces as big as corn kernels, popcorn can travel down the airway and get settled in the lungs. Once settled, these pieces can trigger several respiratory infections including pneumonia.
It’s for reasons such as these that it’s best for you to keep things like chips, pretzels and popcorns away from your child. The risk posed by these food items is too great to be ignored.
Popcorns can plug your child’s airway
That’s right, popcorn can easily plug your child’s airway due to their irregular shape and make it impossible for him to breathe. You shouldn’t serve popcorn to children under 5 as they may inhale the popcorn and choke. There’s nothing more important than your child’s safety so instead of giving him popcorn, serve something softer like crackers in milk or raisins in fruit juice. Last but not the least; do not let your child eat without supervision.