Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Keeping Children Safe - How to Prevent Choking Hazards

Are you a parent or caregiver? It likely crosses your mind a dozen times a day how quickly accidents can happen.

Perhaps you fished a coin out of your toddler's mouth before they tried to swallow it. Or maybe your older child was horsing around and their clothing got caught as they jumped off a jungle gym at the playground.

Does it seem almost impossible to prepare for disaster without putting your children in a bubble?
The good news from the National Safe Kids Campaign is that death from accidental injury has gone down. That includes motor vehicle deaths, burns, firearms, drowning, airway obstruction, falls and poisoning.

But no accident is a good accident, and death from accidental choking, suffocation and strangulation is still one of the leading causes of accidental death for children. Most of these deaths occurred in the home and involved children aged four and under.


Sixty-two percent of accidental deaths caused by toys involved a blocked airway. With more than 80% of emergency room visits for airway obstruction being in children under 4, there is a simple test that can be done to prevent children from having access to toys that are likely culprits.

Using a standard toilet paper roll, try to drop or push the toy through the opening. If the toy fits through or gets stuck then it is a choking hazard.

Since babies - especially those one and under - are developmentally programmed to put things in their mouth, parents and caregivers should give special attention to small items which may get in the child's grasp. Pennies, grapes, popcorn, buttons and small toys like Barbie doll shoes are all potential hazards. Balloons and other plastic or rubber materials are especially hazardous items for babies.

Even larger toys should be regularly checked by giving a firm tug on parts to check for possible breakage.


Toys or clothing with strings are potentially dangerous causes of strangulation. Toys with strings over one foot long should not be used by young children. Drawstrings on hoods should be removed. This is particularly important at playgrounds where more than half of drawstring entanglements occurred on playground slides.

Blind cords are also a strangulation danger and should not be accessible by children. Cords that do not loop are safer, but hooking them out of reach is the only sure prevention.

Children are at risk of strangulation whenever they can get their body through an opening that doesn't fit their head. Bunk bed and crib rails and playground equipment may become dangerous in this regard. Supervision while playing as well as examination of beds with rails is necessary, especially with older beds that do not meet current safety guidelines.

Suffocation is also a risk when young babies are put to sleep on soft bedding - especially when sleeping on their stomachs. Recent 'back to sleep' campaigns have improved awareness and decreased the occurrence of deaths from suffocation.

Young babies who sleep with parents or other children are also at risk of being unintentionally smothered. Babies should not sleep with children who may not be conscious of their presence when deep in sleep. And parents should definitely avoid co-sleeping if intoxicated or otherwise induced into a heavy sleep.

Accidents happen, but taking reasonable precautions will help safeguard your children and give you peace of mind.

No comments: