Posted by Claudia Grazioso on October 12, 2011
I finally thought I was out of the woods when it came to choking. For years, I dutifully minced food into tiny morsels that a mouse couldn’t choke on, cautioned “Small bites, small bites” while my children were eating and shunned anything too sticky or gooey. But as my kids got a little older, that fear started to recede. Maybe it receded a little too early. Awhile ago, a friend mentioned to me that her six-year-old son almost choked on a piece of chicken at dinner. Not just “it went down the wrong way” and he had to sip water and cough. No, this was the full-on, couldn’t-make-a-sound-and-couldn’t-breathe until she whacked him hard on the back and a piece of chicken flew out of his mouth situation. Needless to say, this story got me thinking about choking all over again.
Most parents are cautious about kids and toddlers putting foreign objects in their mouths… so much so that maybe we forget to pay attention to what they’re eating. But there are several foods that are risky when it comes to choking. Should you avoid them all together? That would be hard since a lot of them are on the All-time Favorite Kids Food list — but it doesn’t hurt to be aware and maybe a little extra vigilant when serving them.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the most high-risk foods for choking are hot dogs, hard or gooey candy, nuts, whole grapes, cubed meat or cheese, marshmallows, peanut butter, popcorn and raw fruits and veggies. So, then that’s pretty much 70 percent of the snacks kids normally get. Should you cut out raw fruits and veggies and never offer cheese or meat? Obviously not. But it doesn’t hurt to cut them just an eensy bit smaller, or maybe soften the veggies by steaming them for a bit. We all stop doing that as our children get older, assuming that their airway passages must be growing too. I honestly can’t remember the last time I sliced grapes. But now I might take a look at my youngest child’s pinky finger. Apparently, in general, a child’s airway passage is about a third as big as an adult’s, or about as big as a pinky finger. If you have a very small child, the airway passage is probably closer to the size of a straw.
Other choking prevention tips are making sure there is no eating on-the-run. A child should at least be standing still, and at best be sitting down when they are eating. Also, it’s never a bad idea to brush up on those CPR and Heimlich maneuver skills. We may think of choking as rare, but it is the fourth leading cause of death in children under the age of 5. A little caution and a Heimlich refresher course might not be such a bad thing.
And I guess it’s back to slicing grapes for a little while.