According to a recent study in Pediatrics, incidents of choking continue to rise. Researchers found that more than 12,000 American children aged 4 and younger were treated every year in the emergency room for non-fatal choking episodes. That’s 34 children every day. Candy — especially hard candies — accounted for the highest incidents, followed by chunks of meat and bones. High-risk foods such as hot dogs, seeds and nuts accounted for the most hospitalizations.
When preparing and choosing foods for your toddler, it’s important to follow a few simple guidelines to keep your child safe. The following foods are not recommended for children aged 4 and younger:
- Hard candies
- Raw vegetables, such as carrots, celery and green beans
- Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
- Chewing gum
For children older than 4, use these tips to prepare their food:
- Do not serve chunks of peanut butter. It may be spread thinly on bread or a cracker.
- Cut whole grapes or cherry tomatoes into quarters before serving.
- All large chunks of food should be cut into small, bite-size pieces.
- Cut hot dogs in quarters lengthwise before serving. Do not serve dime-size slices.
Children this age should always be supervised during mealtimes. Cut up food for babies and toddlers into pieces no larger than ½ inch. Teach your children to sit during mealtimes, and don’t let your children run around or play with food in their mouths.
Contributed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello, MD