One of the ways children explore their world is putting things in their mouth. Many kids in a bid to find out how their environment works use their senses, especially their sense of taste.
The things kids put in their mouth include food, toys, clothes, books, and more. Unfortunately, these things can cause kids to choke because they can easily stick in their throat and lodge in their small airways.
Moreso, when it comes to food, children don’t master the chewing technique until they reach the ages of 4-6. Hence, they are more likely to choke on foods that are round or firm.
To be clear, choking occurs when a child’s airways get blocked. While kids at any age are also at risk of choking, young kids below the age of 6 are often at risk as a result of when they:
- put small objects into their mouths
- do not have the back teeth needed to chew and grind lumps of food fully
- are still learning to eat, chew and swallow
- may run, play, laugh or cry while there is something in their mouth
Keep reading to learn how to minimize the risk of choking in children and what to do if they do choke on food.
1. Keep food pieces small
It’s important to cut your child’s food pieces into sizes that are smaller than a pea. Bigger pieces will be harder for little kids to safely and comfortably swallow. Until your child can chew properly, give them food in smaller chunks. This is because their airways are small, and they’re still learning to chew and swallow properly.
2. Make eating safer
From the ages of 1-6, kids are still learning to eat. That being said, feeding your kid can be such a herculean task, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t guide and supervise as they eat. The back teeth are needed for the complete chewing and grinding of food but most young kids do not have this. Always stay close, watch and encourage them to chew their food well and to take their time while eating.
3. Reduce engagement during eating
It is no news that kids love to run around a lot and this may continue if allowed when they eat. However, when kids are allowed to engage in other activities like running, playing, laughing or even crying when they eat, they are more prone to choking on their food. Eating should not be dangerous. So, anytime your kids decide to eat, ensure that they sit quietly until they are done.
4. Avoid force-feeding
This is a rule of thumb. Never force your child to eat especially when he/she is not interested. Doing so may cause them to choke. Without doubt, one of your roles as a parent is to ensure that your kids are fit and healthy, and most times, this is achieved through nourishment from food. However, avoid scolding, cajoling and force-feeding children to eat, instead encourage healthy eating habits.
5. For children below the ages of 4, avoid these foods
Avoid foods that are the size of your child’s airway until she is at least 3 years old. These include nuts, popcorn, whole grapes and any meat that is not cut up finely. Also, avoid slippery foods including grapes, berries and cherries, and hard candies such as lollipops. Also, sticky foods such as chunky peanut butter, caramel, jelly beans, dried fruits.
6. Always check package labelling
Some foods like meat, peanut butter, nuts, popcorn, carrots etc can highly increase the rate of choking. However, when it comes to reducing the risk of choking, reading the label on a package can save your child. Always make time to read the label on the packages as many of these foods with an increased risk of choking often come with warning labels. Reading a label is not a waste of your time as it helps you know the nutritional value, as well as the warning risks.
7. Be prepared
Your kid choking is not something you look forward to but as a parent, you always need to be prepared to act if your kid starts to choke. Knowing how to give First Aid is a skill that never loses its value. As a parent, to save your child from choking, First aid and CPR skills really come in handy. You can watch First aid and CPR tutorials on the web or even better, take a class!
Now, you know what to do to stop your child from choking. Stay calm, watch your kids and be prepared!!