Information in this article was provided by Pacific Medical Training 

Choking is a life-threatening situation that occurs whenever a foreign object lodges in the throat or windpipe. This can cause blockages to the oxygen flow to the brain. Choking is a real medical emergency that requires fast and appropriate action by the closest available person. Choking can cause potential death if not acted upon immediately.

Choking occurs most often among infants and children.

Infants and toddlers are still learning how to chew and swallow properly. This means that they are more prone to choking when large chunks of food may become lodged in the throat. Parents must supervise closely when an infant or toddler is eating.

Children also tend to put anything they touch in their mouth so they must be watched at all times. According to the CDC, the following food are potential hazards to infants and children1:

  • Cooked or raw whole corn kernels
  • Uncut cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Pieces of hard raw fruit or vegetables
  • Whole pieces of canned fruit
  • Uncut grapes, berries, cherries, or melon balls
  • Uncooked dry fruit such as raisins
  • Whole or chopped nuts
  • Tough or large chunks of meat
  • Hot dogs, meat sticks, or sausages
  • Fish with bones
  • Large chunks of cheese, especially string cheese
  • Cookies or muesli bars
  • Potato or corn chips, pretzels, or similar snack foods
  • Crackers or breads with seeds, nut pieces, or whole grain kernels
  • Whole kernels of cooked rice, barley, wheat, or other grains
  • Hard candy, jelly beans, caramels, gum drops, or gummy candies
  • Chewing gum
  • Marshmallows

Symptoms of choking include:

  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Turning pale or blue
  • Losing consciousness

It is difficult to know when choking will occur, however some steps to prevent choking include:

  • Always supervise infants and toddlers while they are eating
  • Ensure that children’s play areas are free from objects that can easily fit in their mouth
  • When an infant is just beginning solid foods, cut up the food into small pieces

How to help a choking child:

If an infant or toddler begins to choke, try doing at least five firm upward blows on the child’s back. If the child responds with a cry or cough, this is a good sign. Continue giving back blows until the child coughs out the cause of the choking. If the child is still unresponsive, place the child facing upwards on your lap with the head in a lower position than the whole body. Perform chest thrusts using two fingers on the centre of the breastbone just below the nipples. The thrust must be enough to compress the child’s chest a third to a half of its depth.

Further information can be resourced from the Royal Children’s Hospital at: