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First Aid & Emergencies

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Swallowed or Inhaled Objects - Prevention

To prevent children younger than 4 years from swallowing or inhaling objects:

  • Carefully supervise young children.
  • Keep small items out of your child's reach.
  • Teach children not to put anything other than food in their mouths.
  • Do not give children foods that may cause choking. These include hard, smooth, or chewy foods that must be chewed with a grinding motion or foods that are round and can easily get stuck in the throat. These types of food are more likely to be swallowed improperly or inhaled.
  • Have children, especially toddlers, sit down to eat their food.
  • Cut food into small pea-sized pieces.
  • Do not feed your child while he or she is crying or breathing rapidly.
  • Discourage talking, laughing, or playing while your child has food or beverages in his or her mouth.
  • Do not give young children small objects that may cause choking, such as marbles or jacks.
  • Look for age guidelines when selecting toys for children.
    • Do not let your child play with a toy if he or she is younger than the recommended age for the toy.
    • The safest toys for small children are at least 1.25 in. (3 cm) around or 2.25 in. (6 cm) in length.

For more information about how to prevent accidental poisoning, see the topic Poisoning. Keep the poison control center number for your area readily available.

Practice the following suggestions when eating, and teach them to your children. Children may copy your behavior.

  • Cut your food into small pieces.
  • Eat small bites slowly and carefully, and chew your food thoroughly.
  • Do not laugh or talk with food in your mouth.
  • Do not eat or drink while you are involved in another activity, such as driving.
  • Do not hold objects such as pins, nails, and toothpicks in your mouth and lips.
  • Avoid excessive drinking of alcohol while eating.

To be prepared for a choking emergency, take an approved first aid course such as those that are sponsored by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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