Choking in Children: Care Instructions

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Young children can easily choke on everyday objects and food. You can help prevent your child from choking by offering the right kinds of foods, teaching your child safe eating habits, and keeping an eye out for choking hazards.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Know how to select and prepare foods. For example, choose soft foods that can be cut up into small pieces, such as cooked carrots. Avoid round, firm foods such as hot dogs, grapes, nuts, and raisins.
  • Make certain areas for eating, such as the kitchen table or dining room. Teach your child to sit down while eating and to chew carefully.
  • Keep small objects out of your child's reach. In general, objects smaller than 1.25 inches in diameter and 2.25 inches long are choking hazards. Examples include coins, buttons, and bottle caps.
  • Do not allow your child to eat while walking, running, playing, or riding in a car. Never leave rubber bands or deflated balloons around the house where children can reach them.
  • Do not allow young children to chew gum or eat hard candy.
  • Learn to recognize the signs of choking so you can react quickly. For example, a child who is choking can't talk, cry, breathe, or cough.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse trouble breathing.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.