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Choking Hazards: Cautionary Tales, The Signs, and How to Help — Part Two

The first part of this series reflected on tragedies and one near-tragedy that occurred and the warnings that their parents have shared in order to keep this from happening to other children. Part two will describe the warning signs of choking and focus on ways to prevent choking altogether. Afterwards, read on to part three for detailed, step-by-step tips for saving a choking child or baby.

 

Prevention is Key

One of the most important things we can do for our children is protect them and prevent tragedy by taking proper precautions. This includes being extremely careful with the food and toys that we give our little ones so that they do not choke or otherwise harm themselves. The following is a list of preventative measures outlined by Kids Health:

  • Encourage children to sit while eating, chew thoroughly, and refrain from talking or laughing with food in their mouths.
  • Keep nuts, miniature treats like chocolate eggs and jelly beans, etc. out of reach of small children under the age of four. This can be difficult during parties and holidays, as they are everywhere. For this reason, parents need to be extra vigilant during special occasions. Even older children can become choked due to the excitement of friends, family, and sweets.
  • Do not let children run, play sports, or jump around with gum or candy in their mouths. Also, avoiding candy and food while riding in cars, especially for the little ones. Passing over a speed bump or pothole can jolt the child and cause food to become lodged in their throats.
  • Read all manufacturers’ food labels carefully to determine choking hazards. These are there for a reason, but we often fail to read them because they have become so commonplace that we barely notice them anymore.
  • Do not give children under the age of four any of the following foods or any others that are hard, smooth, and very small:
    • Nuts
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Watermelon with seeds
    • Cherries with pits
    • Raw carrots, peas, and celery
    • Popcorn
    • Hard candy
    • Raw apples and pears
  • Soft foods can also pose the risk of choking, especially if they are small. Avoid giving these to children under four years old as well:
    • Cheese cubes
    • Hot dogs
    • Sausages
    • Grapes
    • Caramels
  • Keep small toys and objects out of reach of small children. Childproof your home and other places and search floors, under rugs, on and under furniture, and other spots where children may grab for items. Objects which pose a risk include but are not limited to the following:
    • Balloons
    • Toys with small parts
    • Doll accessories
    • Coins
    • Safety pins
    • Small office supplies
    • Marbles and tiny balls
    • Nails, bolts, and screws
    • Erasers
    • Batteries
    • Broken crayons and chalk
    • Jewelry
    • Small bottle caps, soda can tabs, etc.
  • Always follow the manufacturers’ warnings and age recommendations when purchasing toys.
  • Never buy vending machine toys for small children, as they do not meet safety regulations and often contain small, fragile parts.
  • Place refrigerator magnets higher up so that little ones cannot reach them.
  • Check toys and clothing frequently for loose or broken parts… loose or missing eyes on a stuffed animal, loose buttons on a shirt or jacket, a broken hinge, etc.
  • Warn older children not to leave loose game pieces or small toys lying around where the little ones can get to them.
  • Safely dispose of all batteries, especially button-cell batteries such as those that are used in watches.
  • Teach children not to put pencils, crayons, or erasers in their mouths.
  • Put away all breakable objects as well as those that are small enough to fit in children’s mouths.
  • Take a CPR course from a certified instructor. This is essential and should be completed by parents, teachers, and anyone else who regularly works with or cares for small children.
  • Create a first-aid kit that includes a specialist tool, such as that which is used by paramedics to retrieve toys lodged in people’s throats. These will come in handy in the event that CPR training and other methods are unsuccessful. Make sure any tool that you use is pre-approved by a specialist so that you do not put your child at further risk.

 

How to Prevent Children from Choking; Credit: Nationwide Children’s

 

How to Spot the Signs of a Choking Child

The warning signs are not always as obvious as the victim clutching their throat or turning blue. Often, children are left silently gasping for air. However, even if they do not react (usually due to shock), there are visible signals that will let you know that something is wrong. When a child (or anyone, for that matter) begins choking, they will panic, and their eyes will widen. Their cheeks may become flushed due to their inability to breathe.

If the child can cry, speak, or cough forcibly, then his or her airway is partially blocked. This will make it slightly easier to retrieve the object or dislodge it through CPR if coughing and gagging are not successful in forcing it out. Try patting the child and other mild techniques to aid in dislodging the item. Do not do anything drastic at this point, as it may only make it worse.

However, if they are unable to cry, speak, or cough, then the airway is likely completely blocked. They may have a high-pitched voice or start wheezing. Their colour may change and become redder or turn blue. In this instance, immediate medical treatment is necessary. Otherwise, the child will suffer from complications, such as the following:

  • Brain damage
  • Collapsed lung
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Pneumonia
  • Death

It is extremely important to take every precaution in order to prevent choking. However, accidents happen. No matter how prepared we are, things can still go wrong. A cookie or slice of cake may contain hidden pieces of candy. A toy may accidentally get left behind while everyone runs out to the ice cream truck. If your child begins choking, every second counts. Please continue reading to learn about life-saving techniques that could one day aid you in saving your child or someone else from choking.

 

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