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Beware: Culinary Choking Hazards

Protect your child from choking on their grub.

It's a frightening experience to see a child choking. One of the most common reasons for injury and death in children younger than 5 years, choking is a serious problem. Not surprisingly, food is among the greatest choking hazards.

Follow these simple guidelines to help prevent your kids from choking on their food.

Foods to Avoid

Young children are more prone to choking for two reasons. First, they've not grown their large back molars, which help chew, and second, their throats are smaller. So before serving food to your child, consider the size of the food compared to the size of your child's throat. You should also consider how difficult it is for your child to chew and swallow a particular food. Children usually develop the ability to chew well around 4 years of age.

Avoid serving your child hard peanuts or other nuts or seeds until they are 7 years old. Also avoid giving hard candies such as peppermints until the child can chew well. If younger than 4, children should not be allowed to chew gum. If serving fruit, first remove any seed or pit. Other possible choking hazards for kids include hard pretzels, popcorn, raisins, raw veggies, ice cubes, corn, beans, marshmallows, small chewy candies like jellybeans, and even kids' vitamins.

Cut It Up

The shape or consistency of many foods can pose a choking hazard for young ones. It is vitally important to cut certain foods into smaller bites for smaller mouths. Hot dogs are an especially dangerous food for children because of their round, firm shape. Therefore, you should always cut hot dogs into small pieces, cutting across the length and width of the hot dog. Additionally, the size and consistency of many other meats, fruits, and vegetables make the food dangerous, so cut them into tiny, non-round pieces before serving them to a child.

Though you might not think of it, but sticky foods like peanut butter can be a danger. Giving your child a spoonful of peanut butter is not a good idea as it can get stuck in his or her throat. Instead, spread a thin layer of peanut butter on a slice of bread.

Look Out

To avoid a choking emergency, children should be supervised while eating and taught table manners, which often increase food safety. Don't let children run around the house while eating, but teach them to sit up straight and sit still while eating. And cute as it may be, talking or laughing with a mouth full of food can pose a choking hazard. So teach your kids to chew their food well before swallowing, to break the food into small pieces, and to talk only when they've swallowed their food.

At the same time, keep an eye on older siblings who may try to offer dangerous foods to younger children. All it takes is one piece of food to cause an emergency situation.

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