Young children can easily choke on food and everyday objects. You can help prevent your child from choking by offering the right kinds of foods and watching for choking hazards.
Watching how your child eats can also help prevent choking. Teach your child to eat only in the kitchen and dining room. Be sure that your child sits down while eating and that he or she chews carefully. Don't force your child to eat when he or she isn't hungry. These practices
also help your child to develop
healthy eating habits.
To prevent your
child from choking, use care when you select and prepare food. Do not give round, firm foods to children younger than age 4 unless the food is chopped completely.1 Foods that can be choking hazards include:
Seeds (for example, sunflower or watermelon).
Chunks of peanut butter.
Chunks of meat or cheese.
Hard or sticky candy.
Fruit chunks, such as apple chunks.
Prepare food for young children in ways that reduce their
risk of choking. Learn to safely prepare:
Fruit with skins or pits, such as apples or apricots. Remove pits
and peel fruits before giving them to your child. Fruits can also be diced or
cooked and mashed.
Fish or chicken with bones. Carefully cut the meat off the bone and
then into small pieces. Check meat thoroughly for any signs of bones.
Peanut butter. A spoonful of peanut butter can block the windpipe.
Peanut butter can also stick to the lining of the throat and windpipe, making a
child unable to breathe. Only allow peanut butter that is spread thinly on a
slice of bread or a cracker.
Hot dogs and sausages.
Slice and dice these meats. You may want to remove the skin before cutting
Grapes. Peel and mash grapes before serving.
Beans (green, string, lima, kidney, and others the size of a marble
or larger). Mash before serving.
Peas. Although peas are small individually, a child who eats more
than one pea at a time may choke.
Whole carrots. A child may break off too big a bite and choke.
Cook carrots and cut them into smaller pieces, or cut raw carrots into thin
Don't allow your child to eat while
he or she is walking, running, riding in a car, or playing.
Toys and other objects
Teach your child not to put objects in his or her mouth. The
following objects may cause choking in young children.
Toys, such as:
Jacks, marbles, and marble-sized
Latex balloons, either uninflated or broken pieces. Balloons
are easily inhaled into the windpipe.
Those with small detachable
parts, like wheels
Household objects, such as:
Beads and other
Thumbtacks and screws
Paper clips, pen tops,
and safety pins
Clothing price tags
Kitchen items, such as:
Plastic tabs from protective coverings on containers
Test small objects by passing them through a toilet-paper tube. If they fit inside, they could become lodged in the throat of a young child.
Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Prevention of choking among children. Pediatrics, 125(3): 601–607.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.