Be On the Lookout For Choking Hazards

By Alan Nager, M.D., M.H.A.

toy safetyMuch is written about toy safety this time of year, and one of the biggest toy related dangers to young children is choking or aspiration – the entry of a foreign object into the respiratory tract. But there are many things besides toys that end up stuck in kids’ throats or airways.

We have seen kids choke on gumballs, candy, wheels from toy cars, earrings and toy parts, but the number-one thing we see aspirated is coins. Here are some basic choking-prevention measures.

Read labels on toys.

Most have age recommendations, and you should follow those. But you should also use your common sense. Be especially careful of any toy with disk batteries, because these can leak acid.

Police toys and your home.

If a toy breaks, small pieces can end up within your child’s reach. In addition, things can accidentally fall onto the floor. Sweep and check the floors in your home often to make sure there are no choking hazards there.

Supervise your kids.

Whether they are playing at home or running errands with you, your children require constant watch. We have seen kids in shopping carts grab – and choke on – grapes when a parent turned to pull something off a shelf.

Learn  the signs of choking and aspiration.

These include sudden gagging, vomiting, wheezing and turning blue. If your child is choking or might have aspirated something, call 9-1-1. Do not use your fingers, tweezers or anything else to try to remove the object, as you’ll likely push it farther.

Be on the lookout for choking hazards, and take a CPR class that includes instruction in proper first-aid for choking. You could save your child’s life.

Alan L. Nager, M.D., MHA, has been Director of Emergency` and Transport Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for the past 18 years, and is a professor of Pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

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