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Household Choking Dangers
By Mark A. Brandenburg, M.D.

Safety Pin Fever
Imagine my surprise one day when I looked into the mouth of a coughing four-month-old boy and found an open safety pin stuck in the back of his throat! When his parents brought him to the ER for cold symptoms, they had no idea that something like this was the cause of his recent coughing. He ended up doing fine, but it sure made an impression on everybody in the emergency room that night.

Your baby's natural desire to place small objects in her mouth makes her prone to choking. The most common causes of choking in infants are the following everyday items:

  • balloons
  • button batteries
  • buttons
  • coins
  • jewelry
  • marbles
  • nails
  • paper clips
  • plastic bags
  • rubber bands
  • safety pins
  • screws
  • stick pins and needles
  • toothpicks

Be sure to always put small items in a safe place. And search your pockets at the end of each day for any small objects you might have acquired.

Check beneath chairs and sofa cushions for small objects that may have fallen from adult pockets.

Be sure desk drawers are either locked or do not contain possible choking hazards.

Infants and young tots don't chew well and therefore are at risk of choking on food. Stick to baby foods at this age and don't try to feed your baby the following foods:

  • apples
  • beans
  • biscuits
  • carrots
  • chewing gum
  • cookies
  • cubes of cheese
  • dried cereal pieces
  • grapes
  • hard-candy
  • hot dogs
  • macaroni
  • nuts
  • pieces of hard vegetable
  • pieces of meat
  • peanut butter
  • popcorn
  • raisins
  • seeds
  • shrimp

Always be sure to monitor what your baby eats and keep a close eye on her when she is eating.

Teach older children not to share these "forbidden" food items. Little ones often get food from the plate of an older sibling, so supervise your older children during meal time, too.

Be aware that decorative items such as buttons or bows on infant clothing can loosen and fall off and become a choking hazard. Avoid clothing with these items. Check your baby's clothing after each wash and before dressing him to be sure no snaps or threads have loosened.

Pacifiers and bottle nipples can break or be bitten into small pieces causing an infant to choke, so frequently check them for wear and tear. Some pacifiers are poorly manufactured and more likely to be dangerous. Several types of defective pacifiers are currently on the Consumer Product Safety Commission recall list and are in the product recall section of this book.

  • Purchase only those pacifiers with one-piece construction.
  • Be sure the mouth guard is wider than your baby's mouth.
  • Be sure your baby's pacifier has ventilation holes in the shield that would allow breathing if it became lodged in or pressed against her mouth.
  • Immediately discard your baby's pacifier if it begins to show signs of breakage.

Finally, know what to do in case a child begins choking; enroll in a CPR course.

Copyright Mark A. Brandenburg, M.D., author of CHILD SAFE: A Practical Guide for Preventing Childhood Injuries. Published with permission.

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