Young children can choke on food quite easily.
There are several reasons for this, including:
- the small width of their air and food passages (similar to the width of their little finger) which can be easily blocked by small objects
- their inexperience with moving food around in the mouth
- their biting and chewing skills not being fully developed
- a less effective ‘cough mechanism’, which makes it harder to cough out things that get stuck in their throat.
If you’re caring for young children, the most important things you can do to prevent choking are to:
- supervise them while they’re eating
- teach them not to play or run around while eating
- establish a routine where eating is a separate activity – not associated with playing or walking/running – from an early age
- be aware of foods which are more likely to cause choking and reduce the risk of young children choking on these foods.
Never resort to forcing your child to eat. You should request a feeding assessment through your GP if your child is repeatedly gagging or choking on age-appropriate foods.
CPR and choking first aid
Although all care can be taken to prevent food-related choking accidents, they may still occur. As young children are so vulnerable to accidental injuries, it’s recommended that people caring for children, including parents, teachers and child-care providers, should learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and choking first aid for children.
For information on choking first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), see your Well Child Tamariki Ora My Health Book or the HealthEd website.
Find out more from the Ministry
The Ministry works to ensure that nutrition recommendations for New Zealand health practitioners and consumers have a sound evidence base.
Visit the Nutrition section in Our work to find out more, or read the Food and Nutrition Guidelines: