When little ones are around, everything is different. Young children put everything in their mouths, and can choke without warning.
Things that seem safe and fun can become deadly. For instance, hot dogs and colorful latex balloons are both deadly choking hazards. Bee stings and peanut allergies can cause airway swelling that stop breathing.
Common choking hazards include:
- Hot dogs
- Carrot sticks
- Toys with small parts
- Toys that can fit entirely in a child’s mouth
- Small balls, marbles
- Chewing gum
- Large bites of peanut butter
- Small hair bows, barrettes, rubber bands
- Pen or marker caps
- Small button-type batteries
- Refrigerator magnets
- Pieces of pet food
- Choking on cords attached to blinds
Cut food for babies and young children into pieces no larger than one-half inch. Encourage children to chew food well. Supervise meal times. Insist that children sit down while eating. Children should never run, walk, play, or lie down with food in their mouths. Be aware of older children’s actions. Many choking incidents are caused when an older child gives a dangerous toy or food to a younger child.
Children with allergies should keep an EpiPen nearby and adults should know how to use it.
If you want to be really prepared, learn the Heimlich maneuver and be ready, if necessary to create an airway by reading up on an emergency tracheotomy.
Remember the first of the ABCs of first aid is “airway”. Mouth to mouth cannot help if the trachea is completely blocked by an object. Often, you will have to manually dislodge it once the child passes out.
“Time is brain.” This chilling medical saying means that you must do all possible to get oxygen to the brain as soon as it is possible. The lack of oxygen is the cause of all death in general and brain death in particular.
If the worst is happening and you have to do an emergency tracheotomy, the Army manual recommends that you make the slit up and down rather than across, so as not to get near the vital veins or arteries on each side of the windpipe. Then you can insert an emptied ballpoint pen into the hole to allow breathing to resume until first responders arrive.
Prevention is certainly worth a pound of cure in these matters.
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