We’ve all seen it – warnings on toys that say ‘not for children under 3.’ These products tend to have small parts that would be a choking hazard for your toddler. But what about all the stuff already in your house – how can you tell if something might be small enough for your child to choke on?
For children under the age of 5, choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death. Manufacturers of child safety products often sell small object choking testers, sometimes called choke tubes. These hollow tubes allow you to assess toys and other small objects around your home to see if they pose a choking hazard. If an object fits inside the tube, then there’s a possibility your child could choke on it.
Apart from toys, other common choking hazards include coins, marbles, beads, small balls, button batteries, balloons and hair barrettes. In addition, foods such as hot dogs, nuts, seeds, grapes, hard candies, popcorn, peanut butter, raisins and marshmallows can prove hazardous, as well.
Prevention of choking is a priority. But do you know what to do if your child is choking? Or what to do if they go into cardiac or respiratory arrest? Taking a Child and Infant CPR class taught by a certified instructor can be just as important (if not more so) as any other step in preparing for life with baby. These classes teach what to do for a choking infant or child – which may be a little different than the Heimlich maneuver we know for adults – in addition to cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Many hospitals offer the class as part of their programs for expectant parents. Check with the facility where you plan to deliver, your childbirth educator, or your healthcare provider for a recommendation on local CPR instruction.
Other tips for choking prevention include:
- Supervise mealtimes, cut food into small pieces and don’t allow your child to walk around while eating.
- Teach your child to chew their food slowly, not to overstuff their mouths, and not to talk or laugh with a mouthful of food.
- Be mindful of age recommendations on toys – they’re there for a reason.
- Remind older siblings to keep toys with small parts out of reach of their younger brother or sister.
- Check the sofa cushions, and under beds, tables and furniture, for hidden hazards (I know I often find coins in the couch!)
Childproofing your home is an ongoing battle – just when you think you’ve got it all taken care of, your baby or toddler reaches another milestone! Be sure to check around your home every now and then – including as your child moves in toddlerhood and the preschool years - to make sure you have a safe space for your child to explore and grow.