Understanding choking prevention procedures will lessen the chance of serious injury. The information in this brochure can help you to prevent or respond to a choking event. However, it is not a substitute for an approved first aid course or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) course available in your community.
As a parent, do your part by knowing first aid for a choking child or infant. Parents are encouraged to enroll in Basic Life Support class, offered by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association to learn choking prevention procedures and CPR for infants and children.
When children begin eating table foods, parents must be very careful. Older infants, and children under age 4, are at greatest risk for choking on food and small objects.
Choking occurs when food or objects enter the airway (trachea). Blocking the airway prevents oxygen from getting to the lungs and to the brain. If the brain goes without oxygen for more than 4 minutes, brain damage or death may occur. Each year approximately 3,900 men, women, and children in the United States die from accidental choking. Many of these deaths can be avoided.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Heart Association (AHA) believe that parents often can prevent choking. The AAP and the AHA offer the following choking prevention and first aid information for parents of children and infants.
Do not feed children younger than 4 years old any round, firm foods unless they're chopped completely. These types of foods are common choking dangers. Infants and young children sometimes don't grind or chew their food well, so they sometimes attempt to swallow it whole.
Common Choking Dangers
Inspect your children's toys and identify choking hazards. You can test for choking hazards by seeing if toys fit through an empty toilet paper roll. If they do, they're too small to be played with safely. Children can decorate their "no-choke tester" with pictures, stickers or their names. Toys with choking hazards should be kept away from babies, toddlers and young children.
Data Sources: Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health Canada, National SAFE KIDS Campaign®, Safe Kids Canada
The child cannot breathe at all.
The child's airway is so blocked that there's only a weak cough and a loss of color.
For Children Older Than 1 Year Old
Begin the following if the child is choking and is unable to breathe. However, if the child is coughing, crying, or speaking, DO NOT do any of the following, but call your doctor for further advice.