Are you prepared for the upcoming holidays? Each year we plan family gatherings to reconnect and have some fun. If you have children, the season may be filled with many different activities. We all want to join in the festivities, but we need to take the time to ensure that we celebrate as safely as possible. Preparing for potential choking hazards allows you to relax and enjoy your guests.

Children and Choking

Kids will explore your home. Young children and infants satisfy their curiosity and learn about the world by putting small objects in their mouths. Get down on the floor and look around for any possible choking hazards from their perspective. Are there any small items within reach of tiny hands that could be knocked off tables and end up on the floor? 

Depending on the ages of your family or visiting children, some toys may be dangerous. Keep play areas for toddlers separate from the rest. Carefully inspect holiday gifts and wrapping that may be lying around. A child can choke on parts as small as a half-inch. 

Household items to check for:

  • Button batteries
  • Coins
  • Hair barrettes and beads
  • Latex balloons
  • Marbles
  • Medicine syringes
  • Pen or marker caps
  • Small balls
  • Toys with small parts or that can be compressed to fit into a child’s mouth


Choking Hazards at the Dinner Table

The kitchen and dinner table can also be a source of choking hazards for both adults and children. Some food is more problematic than others, especially for younger children and infants 6 to 12 months of age. Cook and prepare food with different age groups in mind and encourage everyone to sit at the table while eating. Use booster chairs and high-chairs for little ones and keep small pieces of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and bite-sized snacks at a safe distance.

Adults are more likely to get in trouble when eating too quickly, not chewing well enough, having poor-fitting dentures, and being distracted by the effects of alcohol.

What to Do When Someone is Choking

When a person is choking, their airway is blocked, oxygen can’t reach the lungs, and brain damage can occur in just a few minutes. Knowing First Aid and Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) can save someone’s life.

If an adult or older child can breathe, speak, cough, or cry, they are often able to clear the blockage themselves. If not:

  • Have them keep coughing until they clear the blockage
  • Tell them to try and spit out the object 
  • Don’t put your fingers in their mouth 

If the person can’t breathe, speak, cough, or cry, severe choking can require back blows.

  • Sit or stand behind them to one side. Place one hand on their chest and bend them slightly forward so the blockage will come out of their mouth instead of back down the airway.
  • Angle the heel of your hand (below your palm) between their shoulder blades and give up to five sharp blows. 
  • Check that the blockage has been removed.

If not, give up to five abdominal thrusts.

  • Stand directly behind them.
  • Bend them slightly forward and put your arms around their waist.
  • Make a fist, put your other hand on top, and put them above their belly button.
  • Pull sharply inwards and upwards.
  • Repeat this thrust up to five times.

If you still can’t clear the airway, get help immediately:

  • Call 911 and let them know a person is choking and you need an ambulance.
  • Continue with five back blows followed by five abdominal thrusts until help arrives.

If a person loses consciousness and isn’t breathing, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with chest compressions. Remember that modified steps are used for infants under the age of one and those who are pregnant. The holidays are a wonderful time of year, so keep your family and guests safe by reducing or eliminating choking hazards while celebrating at home and around the dinner table. Take a first aid or CPR class to prepare yourself for emergencies.