(12/04/12) – For many young children, anything they can reach will go directly into 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, nine 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 are 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," says Ashley Costas, Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal Injury Prevention Specialist. "You should literally get down on your hands and knees and crawl around to see what your child can reach. You will 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 nine 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 children play with it.
• All parents and caregivers should learn CPR and first aid for airway obstruction. Infant and child CPR classes are available. 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 sleep to 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 mattress covered with a crib sheet and nothing else in it.
• 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 reach of children.
For more information on preventing airway obstruction, please call Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal at (843) 777-5021 to speak to an Injury Prevention Specialist or visit www.McLeodSafeKids.org.
Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal, led by McLeod Health, works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading cause of death in children 14 and under. Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental injury. Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal is funded in part by the McLeod Health Foundation.