Starting a baby on solid food can be a worrying time for parents.
Choking can be a serious hazard due to the narrower windpipes of children, and their gag reflexes may not always prevent choking from happening.
CE safety says that children do not properly master the technique for chewing and swallowing until they are five years-old.
And 40 children under the age of five are rushed to hospital every day for choking or swallowing something they shouldn’t.
Curious young children often explore their surroundings by putting things in their mouths, so it is important to know what sorts of objects and food items to keep out of their reach to minimise the risk of them choking.
Small food items and toys are the most common causes, and CE Safety has put together a list for parents to highlight 12 foods to keep an eye out for.
Hard and crunchy foods can be difficult for children to eat. Popcorn kernels are especially dangerous as they can become lodged in a child’s windpipe.
Hard boiled sweets
Hard sweets can easily become lodged in a child’s windpipe, and do not dissolve or melt when they do. This type of sweet should be avoided altogether.
This can form a pasty texture at the back of a child’s throat that can be easily choked on or cause breathing difficulties.
Crackers or rice cakes
Dry and course foods like these can’t be easily broken down and can cause a serious threat to a young child. The hard edges can also cause scratches as they are eaten.
Nuts and seeds
Small hard foods should be avoided, especially if the child has not had their molars through yet. This is because they will struggle to grind these kinds of food down.
Chunks of cheese
Cheese chunks are quite hard, and so can become lodged in a child’s throat quite easily. They can be dangerous even when cut up small.
There have been a number of cases of children choking on grapes in recent years, prompting doctors to put out warnings. If swallowed whole grapes can pose a huge choking risk.Their size and shape means they can completely plug a child’s airway.
More examples of hard foods that can easily become lodged and cause choking.
The sticky texture of chewing gum means that it can get stuck easily. Children can also be tempted to swallow the gum, which can cause choking as well.
Although they are soft, marshmallows can stick together when eaten and can also expand, blocking the throat. Eating a number at a time is very dangerous.
Fruit, especially apples
Apple skin is airtight, so can cause huge problems if stuck in the back of the throat. Fruit with seeds can also be dangerous, so oranges, cherries and watermelons are best avoided.
Chicken on the bone
Bones can be hidden even in boneless meats, and if swallowed can become wedged. Any meat given to a young child should be checked thoroughly.
According to the NHS, you should introduce solid foods around the age of six months old. However, you should always accompany your child when eating and make sure they are chewing and swallowing correctly.
Here are some CE Safety guidelines on what to do to help prevent a child choking.
Never leave a small child unattended while eating. Direct supervision is necessary.
Don’t provide a drink whilst they eat. People do this to make the food go down and it can lead to choking.
Don’t allow your child to eat whilst lying down
Children should sit up straight when eating
Children should not eat when walking, riding in a car or playing.
Cut foods into small pieces, removing seeds and pits. Cook or steam vegetables to soften their texture. Cut hot dogs lengthwise and widthwise and remove skin.
Think of shape, size, consistency and combinations of these when choosing foods.
Pay attention to those foods, toys and household hazards mentioned that pose choking hazards to ensure child safety.
What to do if somebody is choking
1. Back blows
Lean the casualty well forward (over the knee for a child) and give up to 5 sharp blows to the middle of the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
2. Abdominal thrusts
Stand behind the casualty and wrap your arms around their waist making a fist with one of your hands, and using the other to grab it. Sharply pull inwards and upwards 5 times.
3. Call 999
Continue with cycles of back blows and abdominal thrusts until the blockage dislodges, help arrives, or the casualty becomes unresponsive. If you can’t call 999, get someone else to do it.