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Unsafe Foods for Small Children

Why Do Young Children Get Choked Easily When Eating?

Choking occurs when food, or a foreign object, is swallowed or sucked down the windpipe, causing airway obstruction. Airway obstruction hinders the transportation of oxygen to the child’s brain.

Children who are under four years of age are more likely to choke on food than older children. This is due in part to a young child’s small upper airways, and the fact that the child has yet to fully develop the skill of swallowing, breathing and chewing at the same time. In addition, a small child does not have back molars which enable him or her to adequately chew certain foods properly prior to swallowing.


A child over four years of age is more prone to spitting out a piece of food that feels uncomfortable to him or her. Whereas a small child generally does not have the ability to recognize a choking hazard.

While choking on food is more common in small children, choking can occur to anyone at anytime. It is important that children are not left alone when eating.

What You Can Do

  • Small children should not be allowed to eat foods which could cause a possible choking hazard.
  • Children under four should be fed foods which are mashed, chopped into very small pieces or grated.
  • When a child is eating, he or she should not be allowed to run around or play. Children should be seated at the table, or restrained in a high chair.
  • Children should be taught to not talk when they have food in their mouths.
  • Teach older siblings not to share his or her food with small children.
  • Do not leave food lying around which a young child can have easy access to.
  • Do not allow children to stuff their cheeks full of food.

All caregivers should be properly trained in CPR. This should include the Heimlich maneuver. CPR and the Heimlich maneuver techniques are different depending upon the age and size of the child. It is important that caregivers are educated and updated with the proper age appropriate maneuvers.

Foods to Avoid

  • Hot Dogs
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Grapes
  • Chunks of cheese
  • Raw vegetables
  • Popcorn
  • Hard candy
  • Sticky candy
  • Chunks of peanut butter
  • Chewing gum
  • Chunks of fruit

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