Choking Prevention

Choking cannot always be prevented. All parents and caregivers should learn how to perform emergency procedures, such as the Heimlich maneuver and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Sticky Candy Image - Digital Vision

To help reduce the risk for choking, parents and caregivers should watch children carefully, especially when they are eating and playing; should cut all food into small pieces; and should teach children to sit down while eating.

The following foods should not be given to children younger than 4 years of age:

  • Chewing gum
  • Chunks of peanut butter, meat, or cheese
  • Grapes
  • Hard candy or sticky candy (e.g., gummy candies)
  • Hot dogs
  • Nuts and seeds (e.g., peanuts, sunflower seeds)
  • Popcorn
  • Raisins
  • Raw vegetables (e.g., carrots)

Parents should be sure to follow manufacturer guidelines for toy safety, including age recommendations. Older children should be instructed to keep small objects out of the reach of infants and young children. Common objects that present a choking danger, especially for young children, include the following:

  • Balloons (and balloon pieces)
  • Coins
  • Marbles
  • Pen and marker caps
  • Small button-type batteries (e.g., watch batteries)
  • Toys that can fit entirely into a child's mouth and toys with small parts

The following measures can help prevent strangulation and suffocation in children:

  • Place newborns on their backs to sleep.
  • Make sure crib slats are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart and crib posts are no more than 1/16 of an inch in height.
  • Tighten all hardware (e.g., screws, nuts, bolts, brackets) used in cribs, play yards, baby swings, high chairs, etc.
  • Use only firm, tight-fitting crib mattresses and bedding (e.g., sheets) that fits properly.
  • Do not use heavy quilts or blankets, pillow-like bumpers, or stuffed animals in cribs.
  • Do not place cribs, play yards, baby swings, or high chairs near blinds or drapery. Cut cords used to draw blinds and drapes to make sure there are no looped ends.
  • Remove drawstrings from sleepwear and other clothing.
  • Keep plastic bags away from children.
  • Instruct older children never to place a plastic bag over their heads or put anything around their necks.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 04 Sep 2015