Babies and toddlers learn by exploring their world. One of the ways they do this (often to the angst of their parents) is by putting pretty much everything they come across into their mouths. This is completely normal and an important developmental stage, however when they get their hands on the wrong object, choking (and possibly poisoning) can be an issue.
Here are five tips to help prevent your child choking:
1. Chop up their grapes (and sausages too)!
Your child’s airway are smaller than yours, this means they are more susceptible to getting objects stuck. A grape is the perfect size to lodge in a child’s airway, and are incredibly difficult to get out once stuck. Always chop their grapes into quarters when giving them to your little one, or just squish them with your fingers. As long as they are no longer circular they are less likely to get stuck. Don’t forget to chop their cherry tomatoes too, and avoid cutting the sausages into circles, chop them into batons instead.
2. Sit down to eat
Good luck with this if you have a toddler. You need the skills of a highly trained negotiator to get them to sit still at the table. However it can be dangerous for kids to run around with food in their mouth as it can increase the risk of them inhaling it.
Try and make it a rule in your house that when eating, your little one must be sitting on their bottom. You child will be more likely to stay put if you are sitting there too, so use the time to talk and connect over the meal - a great habit to get into especially as they get older!
3. Keep them in your sights
Even though it may be tempting to have a quick shower or get something done in another room when your child is eating (and strapped into the high chair to prevent escape), stay with them. Choking can be silent, so always stay where you can see them. This will also help prevent any ‘escape attempts’ if your little one tries to climb out of their high chair, and help prevent them potentially falling to the floor.
4. Keep the little things out of reach
Small items such as lego, button batteries, marbles, beads, basically anything that can fit through an ‘old school’ film canister, can be a choking hazard for a child. Keep little items out of reach, and ensure toys are age-appropriate and in good condition; broken toys can have small parts that break off and can become a hazard. Older siblings need to be encouraged to keep their smaller toys away from the little ones.
Button batteries (lithium ion batteries) are lethal if swallowed - not only do they pose a choking risk, they can also cause severe burns. Keep them out of reach, and seek IMMEDIATE emergency help if you think your child has swallowed one.
5. Know what to do if your child is choking
Gagging is normal, choking is not, so it is extremely important that you know what to do if your child starts to choke, before it happens.
If your child is unconscious, call triple zero (000) IMMEDIATELY.
If you can see the object causing the problem, and you can easily remove it from your child’s mouth with your fingers, then do so. Do not attempt to do abdominal thrusts (Heimlich manoeuver) on a child who is choking.
Watch this very informative first aid video to help you identify if your child is really choking, and know what to do if they are.
Use five firm and directed back blows and chest thrusts at a time. Do them as shown in the video. Call triple 000 if the object is not dislodged after 5 back blows. While waiting for help, keep alternating between five back blows and five chest thrusts to dislodge the object .
Call triple 000 immediately if your child is choking and you are unsure of what to do.
Even though we can try and prevent accidents such as choking, it can still happen! We can’t wrap our children in cotton wool, and nor should we want to - they need to explore the world. However, following these simple tips can help prevent choking in your child, and most importantly, make sure you know the correct first aid care, just in case.