Common Choking Hazards
Food is responsible for many choking incidents, especially among young children who don’t always chew their food well or stay still while eating. To minimize the danger, always supervise children at mealtimes, insist that they remain seated at a table, and cut their food into easily manageable half-inch pieces (or smaller). Some especially hazardous foods that should not be given to children under the age of four include hot dogs, whole grapes, raw carrots, nuts, seeds, popcorn, hard candy, and gum. Of course, anyone can choke, regardless of their age. The best prevention strategy is to develop good eating habits, including taking small bites, chewing thoroughly, swallowing slowly (instead of gulping), and drinking fluids while eating foods that are chewy, dry, or sticky.
Small non-food items also present choking hazards. Because children are naturally inclined to explore, they often put things in their mouths. When childproofing your home, be sure to check under the furniture and in between the cushions for small, hidden items like coins, buttons, marbles, pen caps, balloons, rubber bands, hair clips, batteries, magnets, and dog food. Also, be aware that most toys are designed for children of a specific age group, and choking can occur when an older child gives a potentially dangerous toy to a younger child.
If a person is choking and appears to be unable to cough out the obstruction, here’s what to do:
- Have someone call 911 – time is of the essence, because an object lodged in the throat can block the airway and prevent oxygen from reaching the brain
- Act quickly to clear the blockage by performing the Heimlich maneuver
- If a child is younger than one year old, place him or her face down across your knees and firmly slap his or her back (between the shoulder blades) several times
If you are alone and find yourself choking, you should cough to attempt to clear the obstruction and make noise in any way that you can to attract the attention of someone who can help. You can also self-administer the Heimlich maneuver by:
- Making a fist
- Placing your fist between your rib cage and navel
- Grasping your fist with your other hand and repeatedly pressing it inward with quick, upward movements
Alternatively, you can lean over a table, chair, counter, or railing and quickly thrust your upper abdomen against the edge.
At South Tampa Immediate Care, our experienced medical staff will be pleased to answer your questions about choking hazards, as well as any other health- or wellness-related topic. Our walk-in clinic is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and weekends, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we do not require appointments.