This post follows on from my earlier post “Introducing Solids”. If you have ever seen a choking child, it is pretty scary and one of my top worries as a parent.
You may be surprised by some of the things on the list, or perhaps you are already aware of some of them. Some people may question whether the cautions are really necessary. They certainly are necessary.
Unfortunately, even with choking manoeuvres and emergency help, the outcome may be life-changing or death if the food cannot be dislodged. It’s simply not worth the risk. There are safer ways to offer these foods or some foods are better delayed until a child is a bit older and less likely to choke.
These are some food choking hazards to be aware of when feeding children:
Whole grapes, whole cherry tomatoes, whole cherries
The size and shape of these make it easy to completely obstruct a child’s airway. The smooth surface of the grape also means that it can be difficult to dislodge with choking manoeuvres. Cut these into quarters to minimise the risk of choking
Hot dogs / Sausages / Tough chunks of meat
Cut up sausages and hot dogs length-wise as well as width-wise. Avoid tough chewy chunks of meat and cut meat across the grain into small pieces which are easier to manage.
Nuts and Seeds
Whole nuts and seeds are choking hazard. You should avoid giving to children under 5.
Coarsely chopped nuts can also be a choking hazard depending on the size of the pieces. Instead, offer thinly spread smooth nut butters or ground nuts added to recipes.
Hard / Sticky Candy
Avoid giving hard or sticky candy to young children. People may offer these as a well-meaning reward, at parties, or at events such as Halloween. There are safer sweets that are less likely to pose a choking risk.
It can be difficult for children to break down and chew popcorn pieces properly, especially for young children who do not have their full set of teeth yet.
There may also be even harder pieces of unpopped or partially popped kernels.
Chunks of nut butter
Chunks of nut butter are sticky and can get stuck easily.
Spread nut butters thinly on toast. If adding into a breakfast bowl like porridge, I would only add a small amount and make sure that it was well mixed so that it had lost it’s sticky consistency and thinned out with the other ingredients. There should never be chunks of nut butter.
Raw vegetables and fruit
Hard food like raw vegetables and fruit can be a choking hazard. Always soften any hard fruit and vegetables by cooking before feeding to infants when introducing solids.
Grating raw vegetables or cutting them into thin strips will make it less likely for a child to choke on but you should still always make sure that you supervising them when eating.
Marshmallows with their pretty soft colours are so appealing to young children. You may be surprised to see marshmallows on the list as they seem so fluffy, but actually they are not that easy for young children to chew.
They have a texture that can become quite sticky when chewing and they can easily block an airway with their shape and size. Even smaller marshmallows can be difficult for a young child to chew.
Uncooked dried fruit
Dried fruit are sticky and hard to chew. Make sure you break up any clumps that have stuck together and cut up larger pieces of dried fruit.
Meat or fish with bones
It is safer to serve meat and fish with the bones removed to avoid the risk of accidentally choking on a bone.
Large chunks of cheese or string cheese
The texture of string cheese means it can be really difficult to chew for a child especially if they haven’t yet got their full set of teeth.
Cut larger chunks of cheese into very small cubes to minimise choking risk
Hard snack foods like tortilla chips, crackers or granola bars
Hard snack foods like tortilla chips, crackers, granola bards, or pretzels are harder to chew. Tortilla chips also tend to have sharp edges which can scratch if a piece gets stuck.
Please note that this list isn’t exhaustive. Any solid food can pose a choking risk in the right conditions. Laughing or talking whilst eating or eating whilst moving about can increase the likelihood of choking with any food.
Choking first aid
St John’s Ambulance website has video demonstrations on choking manoeuvres for babies, children, and adults. It’s important to familiarise yourself with these so that you know what to do should the situation arise. Always better to be prepared!
I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you found this post useful, please share!
Amal is a paediatrician and mum/step-mum to four wonderful children. She started MedicMum101 to share tips and experiences on all things motherhood. She enjoys writing about parenting, health, and wellness, as well as other life musings from time to time. When she is not working, writing, or running after the kids, you can often find her working on a new piece of art.