Kids eat right.

How to Avoid Choking

Contributors: Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN
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Having teeth doesn't mean children can handle all foods. Small, hard foods, slippery foods and sticky foods can block the air passage, cutting off a child's supply of oxygen.

Follow these ten tips on how to avoid choking:

  1. Don't offer small, hard foods to children younger than three or four years of age. Kids may swallow these foods before they're adequately chewed. For example, restrict:
    •  Small, hard foods — nuts, seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, popcorn, snack chips, pretzels, snack puffs, raw carrots, raw celery, raw peas, cherry tomatoes and whole olives.
    • Candies — hard candy, lollipops and chewing gum.
  2.  Don’t feed slippery foods to kids under age four. Whole grapes and large pieces of meats, poultry and hot dogs may slide down their throats before they can chew.
  3. Chop foods into small pieces. For example, cut grapes, meat, poultry, hot dogs and other foods into small pieces. For toddlers and preschoolers, cut foods into slightly larger pieces they can bite and chew.
  4. Watch out for sticky foods. These foods also can be difficult for young children: taffy, soft candies with a firm texture such as gel or gummy candies, caramels, marshmallows, jelly beans, raw peeled apple and pear slices, cherries with pits and dried fruits.
  5. Be careful with nut butters. Spread only a thin layer on bread. Avoid giving your baby peanut butter and other nut butters from a spoon or finger. If it gets stuck in your baby's throat, breathing may be impaired.
  6. Avoid propping your baby's bottle. The bottle contents can collect in the back of the baby’s mouth and cause gagging. Or, the fluid can travel into the ears and cause an infection. Refrain from feeding your baby in the car, too. Helping a choking baby is harder when the car's moving.
  7. Offer appropriate foods. Good finger foods for older babies and toddlers are pieces of banana, graham crackers, strips of cheese or bagels.
  8. Watch your children while they eat. That includes watching older brothers and sisters who may offer foods that younger children can't handle yet.
  9. Insist that children sit to eat or drink. While your children are young, teach them not to eat when they're lying down, walking or running.
  10. Encourage chewing. As your kids develop eating skills, encourage them to take time to chew well.