Take a good look at your baby’s food and belongings. There may be deadly dangers around that you aren’t aware of. According to an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) statement in 2010, choking is a leading cause of injury and death in children ages 3 years old and below. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also says that rates are highest for babies under 1 year old, and that food is the most common cause of infact choking, making up 50 percent of the incidents.
Today, we still hear terrifying stories of children choking on toys, grapes and even baby snacks. This then points every parent’s attention to the need to be aware, informed and prepared for the ever-present danger of infant choking.
Babies are especially vulnerable to choking for reasons specific to them, according to Mayo Clinic. First, it’s because their airways are small and easily obstructed by objects. Babies are also not very skilled yet at chewing and swallowing, and cannot cough up or readily dislodge objects that get stuck in their throat. And, as parents of curious infants may know, it’s common for babies who are exploring their environment to put things into their mouths.
Certain conditions also increase the risk. “Children who have swallowing disorders, neuromuscular disorders, developmental delays and traumatic brain injury, for example, have a higher risk of choking than do other children,” says Mayo Clinic.
Because food is the number one cause of infant choking, parents should make sure any food prepared for a baby does not pose a choking risk. Here are some guidelines to remember:
Food for children should be no larger than half an inch. Cut up your child’s food whenever necessary. For babies starting on solids, food must be soft or mushy and easy to swallow. Don’t feed your baby solids until she’s at least 4 months old or has developed the motor skills needed to swallow.
Supervise mealtimes and make sure your child is not distracted while eating -- a cause for infant choking as well. Children should not run, walk, play or lie down with food in their mouths.
Encourage your child to chew well.
Pay attention when older kids are around. “Many choking incidents are caused when an older child gives a dangerous toy or food to a younger child,” says the AAP.
Some foods to keep away from children 4 years old and below include:
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Hard or sticky candy
When it comes to toys, always check that the plaything is designed for your child’s age. Toys for older children may have small and removable parts. For toddlers, Dr. Victoria Ang, a developmental pediatrician at Cardinal Santos Medical Center, shared a guide to keep in mind. “As a rule of thumb, use the cardboard tube found in the middle of a roll of toilet paper as gauge. If a toy is small enough to fit in it, it's too small to give to a toddler,” she told Smartparenting.com.ph.
Balloons and latex gloves should never be given to children, especially babies. Balloons are the main cause of toy-related deaths in children, according to BabyCenter. A child blowing up or chewing a balloon may accidentally inhale it and choke. When swallowed, they form tight seals in a child’s airway, making it impossible to breathe.
Sweep through your home to find small objects your child can reach. Check under the sofa and between cushions. Household culprits to watch out for include:
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Small balls, marbles
Small hair bows, barrettes, rubber bands
Pen or marker caps
Small button-type batteries
Pieces of dog food
Caution comes hand in hand with preparedness. Every parent who has a baby should know how to administer the first aid technique for infant choking. As a guide, here’s an instructional video from St. John Ambulance. Commit this to heart and memory.
1. Lay your baby face down on your thigh, and then give up to 5 back blows. 2. If that doesn’t work, turn your baby over and give up to 5 chest thrusts by using two fingers to pump your baby's chest. Check your baby's mouth to see if the object has been dislodged. 3. If not, repeat from step 1. If you've repeated these steps for three times and your baby is still choking, call an ambulance. Dial 911 for the Philippine emergency hotline.
Encourage everyone who cares for your baby to learn baby first aid techniques as well. See more instructional videos for life-saving first aid techniques for infants here.