Kids and choking: Don’t be afraid, be ready

Most parents and grandparents understand that choking hazards pose real risks for young children. But you may be surprised by the variety of dangers out there — and that the leading cause of choking for kids is food. But you can take some simple steps to help avoid potentially deadly problems and be ready for what to do in the case of a choking emergency.

Once kids are to the age when they are eating solid food be sure to have young children eat at the table where they can sit up and you can keep an eye on them as they eat. Also, encourage the kids to eat slowly and chew their food well.

You can help by cutting up all foods that are firm and can get stuck in airways. Avoid giving the following to young children: Hard sticky candy, caramel, whole peppermints, nuts and seeds, popcorn, spoonfuls of peanut butter, raisins, and chunks of meat. If you serve your child hot dogs (and many parents choose not to), cut them length wise into small pieces. Grapes should be cut into quarters.

While food is the leading choking culprit, people caring for kids under age 4 should also avoid any toy small enough to fit thru a 1 ¼ inch circle or is smaller than 2 ¼ inches long. Don’t allow young children to play with toys designed for older kids.

Other hazards to watch out for: coins, marbles, watch batteries: pen or marker caps, cars with small rubber wheels that come off and small foam balls that can be compressed to a size to fit in a child’s mouth. Also, don’t allow children to chew on deflated latex balloons or play around bean bag chairs that are full of pellets which can be inhaled.

Even parents and grandparents who do their best to baby proof their homes of choking hazards may not be able to avoid a potentially deadly mishap. For that reason, you should learn CPR and the proper procedures — including the Heimlich maneuver — for helping a choking child. For Information on CPR and signing up for classes at St.Vincent call (317) 338-CARE (2273).

While you don’t need to live in constant fear of choking hazards, it’s important to make wise choices when it comes to what we give young children — and to know what to do if this happens.

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