What You Should Know to Protect Your Family
Young children are at the greatest risk of choking. They tend to put things in their mouths and they have smaller airways that are easily blocked. Also, they don’t have a lot of experience chewing and tend to swallow things whole.
Minimize the risks of choking by:
- Serving a child’s food in small, manageable bites. Foods that pose choking risks because they’re the same size and shape as a child’s airway include hot dogs, grapes, raw carrots, nuts, raisins, hard or gummy candy, spoonfuls of peanut butter, chunks of meat or cheese and popcorn. To keep them safe, cut whole grapes into quarters, cut hot dogs lengthwise and into pieces (and remove the tough skin) and cook vegetables rather than serving them raw. Also, teach kids to sit down for all meals and snacks and not to talk or laugh with food in their mouths.
- Keeping deflated balloons, coins, beads, small toy parts and batteries out of reach.
- Getting down on the floor often to check for objects that they could put in their mouths and choke on. You’d be surprised by the things that routinely fall off counters or out of pockets and end up under furniture, behind curtains, etc.
- Choose safe, age-appropriate toys. Always follow the manufacturer’s age recommendations. Some toys have small parts that can cause choking, so carefully inspect a toy’s packaging.
What if a child is choking?
Most of the time, the food or object only partially blocks the trachea and it’s likely that it will be coughed up and that breathing will be restored easily. A child who seems to be choking and coughing but is still able to breathe and talk probably will recover unassisted. It can be uncomfortable and upsetting, but the child is generally fine after a few seconds.
Sometimes an object can get into the trachea and completely block the airway. If airflow is blocked into and out of the lungs, and the brain is deprived of oxygen, choking can become a life-threatening emergency.
A child may be choking and need help right away if he or she:
- is unable to breathe
- is gasping or wheezing
- is unable to talk, cry or make noise
- changes color from bright red to blue
- grabs at his or her throat or waves arms
- appears panicked
Possible scenarios you might face and tips on how to handle them:
- If a child is choking and coughing but can breathe and talk, the airway is not completely blocked and it’s best to do nothing. The child will likely be fine after a good coughing spell. Don’t reach into the mouth to grab the object or even pat the child on the back. Either of these steps could push the object farther down the airway, and actually make the situation worse. Stay with the child and remain calm until the episode passes.
- If a child is conscious but can’t breathe, talk or make noise, or is turning blue, the situation calls for the Heimlich maneuver. Begin the rescue procedure if you’ve been trained to do so. Though it is a pretty simple process, it must be performed with caution, especially on young children. If you haven’t been trained, and no one else is available to perform it, call 911 for help.
- If the child was choking and is now unconscious and no longer breathing, call for help and then proceed immediately to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), if you’ve been trained in it. If you have not, call 911.
- You should take your child for emergency medical care after any major choking episode, especially if there is a persistent cough, drooling, gagging, wheezing, difficulty swallowing or difficulty breathing.
- Take the time now to become prepared. CPR and first-aid courses are a must for parents, caregivers, and babysitters. To find one in your area, contact your local Red Cross, YMCA or American Heart Association chapter, or check with hospitals and health departments in your community.
Learn More About Preventing Choking on KidsHealth.org
Printable Choking Care Instructions Sheet by KidsHealth.org
Falls are common in children as they learn to walk, run, climb and play. Unfortunately, they are the number one cause of childhood traumatic injuries.
To help protect your child, be aware of the following dangers:
- Baby walkers should never be used.
- Securely fasten children to changing tables, high chairs and car/baby seats using the belts provided, and never leave them unattended. Do not put baby/car seats on countertops or tables.
- Move chairs, cribs and other furniture away from windows, so children don’t fall out.
- Place a gate at the top and bottom of every stairway and a guard on railings, to prevent children from getting stuck or falling through.
- Furniture, especially TV consoles, should be reviewed. Children may climb up on shelves and cause it to tip over and fall on them.
- Carefully examine the playgrounds. Make sure there is adequate padding underneath the equipment. Check for loose parts. Ensure the equipment is age-appropriate for a child and do not leave them unattended.
If your child experiences a serious fall, you will want to get them medical attention.
Call 911 and do not remove the child, if there is a chance he or she:
- is unconscious or may have hit his or her head
- broke a bone or injured neck, back, hipbones, or thighs
- is not breathing (start CPR immediately)
- had a seizure
- had clear fluid or blood coming from nose, ears or mouth
If it appears to be a minor fall, comfort the child and give him or her an ice pack for any bumps or bruises. Watch closely for 24 hours for any unusual symptoms or behavior. Call your doctor if the child becomes very sleepy and is difficult to wake, vomits, cannot focus eyes normally, or is irritable and difficult to console, as it may signify a more serious injury.
Learn More About Preventing Falls on KidsHealth.org
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can be difficult to detect. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year an estimated 15,200 people receive treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning unrelated to fires.
Preventive steps to reduce the risk of accidental poisoning in your home:
- Have your fuel-burning appliances, such as oil and gas heaters, furnaces, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces and woodstoves, serviced regularly by a professional at the start of every heating season.
- Install CO detectors with alarms near the bedrooms in your home; like smoke alarms, they signal when CO reaches dangerous levels.
- Do not use gas ovens to heat your home.
- Do not sleep in a room with a kerosene heater or in a room that is not ventilated.
- Avoid idling fuel-burning vehicles or appliances in the garage, even if the garage door is open, because CO fumes can build up quickly.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to organ failure, tissue damage and even death.
Important warning signs:
- Even low to moderate levels of CO in the home may cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, mental confusion, and fatigue.
- If more than one family member experiences symptoms, or if a family pet has similar symptoms, it may be a sign of CO poisoning. Because pets don’t eat the same food as humans or share viruses, the combination of ill pets and ill family members may signify that CO has reached toxic levels in the home.
If you suspect CO poisoning:
- Evacuate all family members and pets and go to the emergency department right away. If a diagnosis of CO poisoning is confirmed, emergency department personnel may call the fire department to find the source of the carbon monoxide.
- Replacing or servicing fuel-burning appliances should eliminate CO problems in the home.
The Nemours Children's Safety Store
Nemours is proud to offer low-cost safety products with injury prevention education to the community. We have carbon monoxide detectors and other home safety products. The store is located inside Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware.
Learn More About Nemours Children's Safety Store
Lead poisoning in children is associated with behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and growth retardation. You get lead poisoning by swallowing or inhaling it. Since children tend to put things in their mouth, they are more susceptible to the risk of lead poisoning.
The National Institutes of Health warns that lead may be found in:
- Houses painted before 1978. Infants and children living in pre-1960’s housing (when paint often contained lead) have the highest risk of lead poisoning. Lead paint is very dangerous when it is being stripped or sanded. These actions release fine lead dust into the air. Small children often swallow paint chips or dust from lead-based paint
- Toys and furniture painted before 1976
- Painted toys and decorations made outside the United States
- Children’s paint sets and art supplies (always look at labels)
- Soil in your garden, contaminated by lead from car exhaust or house paint scrapings
- Plumbing, pipes and faucets whose pipes were connected with lead solder. While new building codes require lead-free solder, lead is still found in some modern faucets and can be found drinking in water
- Hobbies involving soldering, such as pottery glazing, stained glass or jewelry making (always look at labels)
- Lead bullets, fishing sinkers, curtain weights
- Pewter pitchers and dinnerware
- Storage batteries
The symptoms of lead poisoning may include:
- abdominal pain and cramping (usually the first sign of a high, toxic dose of lead poison)
- very high levels may cause vomiting, staggering gait, muscle weakness, seizures or coma
- loss of previous developmental skills (in young children)
- aggressive behavior
- low appetite and energy
- difficulty sleeping
- reduced sensations
You can reduce your exposure to lead. Consider the following steps:
- Small children should have a lead test every year
- If you suspect you may have leaded paint in your house, get advice on safe removal from the National Lead Information Center at 800-424-LEAD or visit www.epa.gov/lead
- Keep your home as dust free as possible
- Everyone should wash their hands before eating
- Make sure to wash all toys every week
- Throw out old painted toys if you if you are unsure if the paint contains lead
- Let tap water run for a minute before drinking or cooking with it
- If your water has been tested high in lead, consider installing an effective filtering device or switch to bottled water for drinking and cooking
- Eat nutritious food. If you eat low-fat foods and lots of vegetables and fruits, lead doesn’t stay in your body very well
Learn More About Preventing Lead Poisoning on KidsHealth.org
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