Prevent a Child from Choking Alert
Putting things in their mouths is one of the ways that babies and small
children explore the world. Anything that fits in their mouths can be a clear
and present danger. Choking is usually caused by food, toys, coins and other
small objects that can easily lodge in a child's small airway.
At a time when the hospital emergency rooms around the country are
overwhelmed with patients and waits lasting hours are not unusual, this is no
time to bring a choking child to an emergency room. To help prevent a child from
choking, please read Choking in
children, and visit Focus On First Aid.
Barbara K. Hecht,
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com
Physical and developmental factors put children at risk for choking. Children
who choke run the risk of death, permanent brain damage caused by lack of
oxygen, or other complications associated with airway blockage. In 2001,
thousands of children were treated in U.S. emergency departments for nonfatal
- In 2000, 160 children ages 14 years or younger died from an obstruction of
the respiratory tract due to inhaled or ingested foreign bodies. Of these,
41% were caused by food items and 59% by nonfood objects (CDC, unpublished
- For every choking-related death, there are more than 100 visits to U.S.
emergency departments. In 2001, an estimated 17,537 children 14 years or
younger were treated in U.S. emergency departments for choking episodes.
- Sixty percent of nonfatal choking episodes treated in emergency
departments were associated with food items; 31% were associated with
nonfood objects including coins; and in 9% of the episodes the substance
was unknown or unrecorded. yes">
- Candy was associated with 19% of all choking-related emergency
department visits by children ages 14 years or younger; 65% were related
to hard candy; and 12.5% were related to other specified types of candy
(chocolate candy, gummy bears, gum, etc.). The type of candy was not
specified in the remaining 22.5% of the cases. Candy was associated with
5% of all choking-related visits for infants less than one year of age;
25% of visits for children ages 1 to 4 years; and 28% of visits for
children ages 5 to 14 years.
- Coins were involved in 18% of all choking-related emergency department
visits for children ages 1 to 4 years.
- In 2001, 10.5% of children treated in the emergency department for
choking episodes were admitted to the hospital or transferred to a
facility with a higher level of care
Injury Prevention Tips for Parents and Children
Every child is at risk of choking. To reduce this risk, parents and
- keep a watchful eye on their children when eating and playing;
- keep dangerous toys, foods, and household items out of reach; and
- learn how to provide early treatment for children who are choking.
For even more information, please visit our Prevention
Center, and Focus On Healthy Kids!
Last Editorial Review: 10/25/2002