Preventing children from choking on food
What should I be watching out for to make sure my child is not at risk of choking on foods?
Have you ever gotten a piece of food stuck in your throat or swallowed your drink "down the wrong pipe"?.
Children can cope with different foods and textures at different ages:
- When first weaning, at 4-6 months the texture of food should be a semi-liquid puree with no lumps or strings.
- By 6-9 months you can gradually change the texture of the food to puréed, then mashed and then very finely minced food. Avoid fruits with tiny seeds, such as raspberries and kiwi fruit (unless you strain the seeds out of the purée) as they can be breathed into the windpipe. As teeth usually coming through, babies enjoy something to teeth on and he or she may enjoy carrot sticks or apple slices. It is very important not to leave your child unattended with these, in case of choking, and if your child is left alone, even for a moment (say to answer the door), then a teething ring must be substituted.
- Grated and coarsely ground food can be introduced at 9 months taking care to avoid foods that pose a risk for choking such as whole nuts and fruit stones. You can add in fruits with small seeds (as above), and at 10-11 months bite-sized pieces can be introduced.
- Children as old as three have been known to choke on grapes and olives by breathing them into the windpipe, so while your child should be enjoying a varied and fresh diet, do not leave them unattended even with foods as innocuous as these. Always be cautious about removing small bones from fish and poultry.
- One of the most common accidents admitted to casualty wards are children with lollipops stuck in their throats. These are a notorious hazard and if your child must eat them make sure that they do not run with them sticking out of their mouth (everyone has seen a child do this). Another confectionery food hazard are small toys found in novelty chocolates and Easter eggs, which taste good as they have been coated in chocolate and are often sucked on - there have been three deaths attributed to this cause in the UK.