Choking in children, prevention and intervention


  • 1 Choking in children: why it occurs
  • 2 Choking in children: the most dangerous objects
  • 3 What foods children can choke on
  • 4 What to do to make food less dangerous
  • 5 How to prevent choking in children
  • 6 What to do in case of suffocation in children
  • 7 What not to do in case of choking in children

It is one of the deepest fears of every mother and it is certainly not unmotivated: suffocation in children is a serious risk and, if you do not know how to intervene and what to do, the consequences can be very serious, including death. Sometimes it comes to unpredictable accidents, just enough distraction and trouble is served. Many other times, however, prevention can be done successfully. So let's see all the precautions to be taken to avoid the danger of suffocation.

Choking in children: why it occurs

70% of the cases of suffocation are caused by food, 30% by objects. Attention must therefore be placed both on what we bring to the table and offer to our little ones, and on what surrounds them in the home environment. Choking can be caused by a myriad of things, from a peanut to a deflated balloon.

Choking in children: the most dangerous objects

According to the Ministry of Health, here is the "top ten" of the objects most at risk of suffocation in children:

  1. Removable toys.
  2. Lithium batteries.
  3. Magnets.
  4. Detergents.
  5. Pen caps.
  6. Balls of all types and materials.
  7. Round and large candies.
  8. Pistachios and hazelnuts.
  9. Coins.
  10. Pendants and buttons.

What foods children can choke on

As mentioned, however, food is the main culprit in choking episodes in children. The experts now know the dangerous characteristics of the foods that most often cause problems: it is therefore necessary to know them. 

The foods that can clog our children's airways more easily are usually small, round (like hard candy) or cylindrical (grapes, hot dogs, sausages, cherries, mozzarella, sliced ​​carrots, peanuts, pistachios), sticky (jellies, Nutella, peanut butter), which fray (raw ham fat, fennel) or do not lose consistency even when cut (pears, peaches, plums, plums, homemade biscuits) or have strong adherence (carrots julienne, raw ham).

What to do to make food less dangerous

The basic rule is to reduce the food to small size and non-cylindrical shape. Foods must first be cut lengthwise (i.e. long) and then crosswise, so that they are very minute. This applies, for example, to grapes (cut the grape into 4 and remove the seeds) and sausages (when they are sliced, they have exactly the same size as the airways of children!).

How to prevent choking in babies

Also for the Ministry of Health, these simple tips help prevent choking accidents in children:

  1. avoid letting them eat alone.
  2. Avoid letting them play while they eat.
  3. Also cut the food lengthwise.
  4. Make sure they don't put too much food in their mouth.
  5. Do not let them eat and drink in a moving vehicle.
  6. Make them eat and drink preferably while sitting with their back upright to allow food to easily reach the digestive tract.
  7. Move small objects away.
  8. Make sure they play with age-appropriate toys.

Obviously, all this is associated with particular care in organizing the home: it seems the safest place in the world but it is not. All it takes is a moment of distraction and children can get themselves into trouble, putting anything in their mouth or nose. It is therefore very important to avoid leaving any object that can be ingested or inhaled within reach of the little ones (HERE we talked about how to prevent domestic accidents).

What to do in case of suffocation in children

What to do if a child is choking, is cyanotic (the face turns bluish) and has difficulty breathing? Much depends on age. The first rule is not to panic (we know it's difficult, but you have to try: our child's life is at stake). Babies and little ones under one year of age should be placed on the forearm with their stomach down and with the hand the jaw should be tightened, with a firm but not too strong grip. The arm should be placed on the thigh.

With the palm of the free hand you have to give 5 blows between the shoulder blades of the child (interscapular blows outwards so as not to hit the head). Then the baby is rotated on its back and we alternate these maneuvers with 5 slow and deep compressions carried out in the center of the chest, using two fingers. In the meantime, if you haven't already done so, you need to alert 118.

For older children we proceed with the Heimlich maneuver: the little one must be hugged tightly from behind and the upper abdomen must be abruptly compressed: the strong pressure pushes the air out of the lungs, which should cause immediate expulsion of the foreign body. If the child loses consciousness, it is also necessary to proceed with resuscitation maneuvers.

What not to do in case of suffocation in children

Two fundamental things must never be done. Do not violently shake the baby upside down and do not put your finger in the mouth to try to remove the object or food that is causing suffocation: especially this second activity can make the situation much worse, closing the airways completely. The advice is to take an airway clearing course to know what to do in an emergency. There are many, organized by various bodies and associations. Choose one that is certified and safe because it is a topic that certainly cannot be improvised. 

Text updated on 29 September 2022

add a comment of Choking in children, prevention and intervention
Comment sent successfully! We will review it in the next few hours.