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Top 10 Choking Risk Foods for Children and the Top 10 Ways Parents Can Protect Them Posted: April 2nd, 2010

Top 10 Choking Risk Foods

Choking is the leading cause of death among American children and almost 60 percent of choking incidents in children under age 14 are caused by food, according to one survey cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The AAP recommends that parents keep the following foods away from children younger than 4 years old:

  1. Hot dogs (responsible for 17 percent of choking deaths)
  2. Whole grapes
  3. Chewing gum
  4. Meat sticks or small sausages
  5. Peanut butter--especially in chunks or spoonfuls, or served on soft, white bread
  6. Hard, gooey, or sticky candy that could easily conform to the size of a child's windpipe (about 1.25 inches in diameter)
  7. Nuts and seeds
  8. Popcorn
  9. Raisins or other dried fruit
  10. Carrots, cherry tomatoes or other cylindrical vegetables

To better protect children, the AAP recommends parents follow these recommendations:

  1. Parents should keep a watchful eye on children while they are eating
  2. Parents should prohibit children from playing games that involve throwing food in the air and catching it in their mouths or playing food games that require them to stuff large amounts of food into their mouths (for example, marshmallows)
  3. Children should be taught to chew their food well
  4. Children should be discouraged from walking, running, talking, laughing or tipping their chair back while eating
  5. Children under the age of 4 should not be fed any round, firm food unless it is cut into small pieces no larger than one-half inch
  6. Parents should ask their child's health care provider to prescribe medicine in a form other than pills, which can pose a choking hazard to young children
  7. Parents and caregivers should keep small toys, particularly uninflated latex balloons, and household items that easily fit into the mouths of small children out of reach
  8. Parents should teach older children not to give small items or toys to younger children
  9. Parents of children with neuromuscular disorders, developmental delays, brain injuries or other medical conditions that affect the swallowing process should pay special attention to choking prevention, regardless of their child's age
  10. Because it is impossible to prevent all choking episodes, consult with your health insurance agent or health care provider about classes in basic first aid, CPR, and the Heimlich maneuver

Because "choking on food poses an important and relatively underaddressed problem for U.S. children," the AAP is lobbying federal officials to require warning labels on foods most likely to cause choking. The organization is also calling for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to establish a national system to document the full extent of choking-related injuries and deaths.

Rebecca Theim