When should you panic? Never. (But know when to intervene)
Now that your child is eating food and getting interested in all sorts of things, it’s a good idea to brush up on your knowledge of gagging vs choking. It is important to know how to intervene in both situations. It will ensure that you don’t panic but react wisely (but fingers crossed it just never happen!)
Gagging vs choking
Gagging is a good reflex that kids have to protect their respiratory tract and avoid choking. As kids learn to move and manage the food inside their mouth, they sometimes gag or cough to prevent swallowing before being ready. It’s healthy and normal.
Choking is happening when a piece of food or a toy is blocking the airways. It requires immediate attention as it can be very dangerous. Always supervise your child when eating as choking might be silent. Your child might not be able to cry, cough to signify he/she can not breathe properly. It’s also a good idea to know what to do in this case – follow a CPR course to feel ready.
Gagging is a good reflex while choking is a serious situation that requires immediate intervention.
We can’t eliminate the risk of choking, but let’s minimize it
The rule is to avoid foods that are small and round, hard, sticky or crunchy until your child is 4 years old. For these choking hazard, ensure you offer them properly:
- Whole nuts and seeds (avoid or serve as nut and seed butter)
- Chunky nut butter like peanut butter (use smooth nut butters and spread thinly, never give a spoon of it)
- Popcorn (avoid)
- Whole grapes (cut lengthwise in 4 quarters)
- Cherry tomatoes (cut lengthwise in 4 quarters)
- Hard candies (avoid)
- Chewing gum (avoid)
- Hotdog and sausage (avoid processed meat like hot dog and deli meat, cut sausages lengthwise and in small pieces)
- Food on skewers and toothpicks (avoid)
- Whole beans like chickpeas (mash cook them)
- Fruit pits (remove then from fruits before offering)
- Hard raw fruits and veggies like carrots and apples (grate them or cook them before offering)
Avoid food that are small and round, hard, sticky or crunchy until 4 years of age.
A side note on honey
Avoid honey (raw, pasteurized, cooked, in recipe, in prepared bought food = all sources of honey) until your child is 12 months old. This has nothing to do with choking, but it is to prevent infant botulism. Your child’s immune system is still unable to fight that bacteria, so it is better to avoid honey completely.
Avoid feeding honey to your child until 1 year of age.
Other ways to limit choking risks:
- Always supervise your child when eating. The easiest way to do so is by eating as a family sitting at the dinner table.
- Be aware of your child’s evolving motor and eating skills so that you can offer appropriate food.
- Always feed your child when sitting properly at the dinner table: Not in a moving car, not in a stroller, not while playing.
- Avoid distraction at the dinner table: avoid TV/tablet/phone, games and anything that can make your kid laugh while eating. A calm atmosphere is suitable so kids are fully in control of their actions and can concentrate on eating.
- Know what to do if choking happens. Refresh on your CPR skills.
- Ensure all adults feeding your child known the differences between gagging and choking, and how to react in both situations.
- Remember that choking can also happen with toys and objects your child will find and put in his mouth.
Subscribe and get this printable cheat sheet. Post it on your fridge so that everyone feeding your child knows how to react with gagging and choking.
Choking risks exist with food and toys. Refreshing on your CPR skills might be a good idea.
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