These days my toddler child seems to like getting into some playful mischief (more and more)! Most of the time it is harmless fun, but there are other times when harm could crop up, if I didn't swoop in to prevent it of course…
Toddlers seem to like putting things into their mouths, which is one particular bad habit at the moment which is concerning me. Toys can contain small pieces, not to mention everything else around the home that’s small enough to fit in the mouth. Recently, I had to take out from her mouth a plastic coin she was happily munching away on. The effect of that was then to remove the other plastic coins and everything else I could see that she might put into her mouth.
On this ‘choking hazard hunt’, I realised how many items can pose a choking hazard! Needless to say, I put some toys away until she gets a bit older.
If you have a toddler, I recommend you do the same, if you haven't already of course. After all, it only takes a minute or two to choke. Follow this checklist to prevent anything horrible happening:
An important question
Is the toy age-appropriate? Toys that have large age ranges, such as designated for children 6 to 36 months old, are a safe bet. Both toddlers can play with the items without risk or worry.
Large blocks are never left gathering dust. Toddlers like stacking them, and babies like sucking and throwing them. Lego though and other smaller blocks are a no-no!
Take it outside
Toddlers are curious about bikes and scooters, just be sure they wear a helmet and you accompany them at all times.
Board books are strong, much stronger than paper books, good luck to a toddler tearing a board book up!
Reduce wires and cords
Keep wires and cords less than 12 inches long, they can cause a strangulation hazard for children. Focus on toys with short strings or that have hard plastic handles.
Bigger is better
Toys and parts should be larger than your child’s mouth to prevent choking. If possible, don't buy toys with tiny parts that can be removed, like buttons, coins, etc. If you are unsure if an item is large enough, try dropping it through a toilet paper roll. If it falls through, it’s not safe.
Battery vs. electric
Battery-operated toys prevent risk of electrocution and cord strangulation. The battery compartment should be secure enough so tiny fingers cannot open it. Also make sure that the screw is in properly holding the batteries in place. Be sure also to keep those batteries well out of reach.
Magnets can pose a serious health risk if they’re swallowed. If they connect to each other in the intestines, serious problems, such as blockages, and possibly death can occur.
Avoid toys that shoot objects into the air. They can cause serious eye injuries or present a choking hazard. If you child wants to propel something practice catch with a ball!
Make sure stuffed toys are made well and are not filled with small pellets or stuffing that can cause choking or suffocation if swallowed. Parts should be sewn on tightly, and seams and edges should be secure. Remove loose ribbons or strings to avoid strangulation. Stuffed toys should also be machine washable, so germs and spills can easily be removed.
You know toddlers will stick everything in her mouths. Make sure the label or packaging says “nontoxic” to avoid toys with toxic materials that can cause poisoning. Going with wooden toys rather than plastic is also a safer bet, as many cheap plastic toys contain toxins which can be absorbed through the skin and mouth.
When I was younger, I was a trained lifeguard so I’ve always been ready to jump into action if I see an incidence I can help. Fortunately, I haven’t needed to use my lifesaving skills yet, and hopefully never will!
If an unfortunate event occurs where you see your child choking on something here is what you do:
Choking - what to do
Step 1: Assess the situation quickly.
If a child is suddenly unable to cry, cough, or speak, something is probably blocking her airway, and you'll need to help her get it out. She may make odd noises or no sound at all while opening her mouth. Her skin may turn bright red or blue.
Step 2: Try to dislodge the object with back blows and abdominal thrusts.
First do back blows
If a child is conscious but can't cough, talk, or breathe, or is beginning to turn blue, stand or kneel slightly behind him. Provide support by placing one arm diagonally across his chest and lean him forward.
Firmly strike the child between the shoulder blades with the heel of your other hand. Each back blow should be a separate and distinct attempt to dislodge the obstruction.
Give five of these back blows.
Then do abdominal thrusts
Stand with one foot in front of the other, or kneel behind the child, and wrap your arms around his waist.
Locate his belly button with one or two fingers. Make a fist with the other hand and place the thumb side against the middle of the child's abdomen, just above the navel and well below the lower tip of his breastbone.
Grab your fist with your other hand and give five quick, upward thrusts into the abdomen. Each abdominal thrust should be a separate and distinct attempt to dislodge the obstruction.
Repeat back blows and abdominal thrusts
Continue alternating five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until the object is forced out or the child starts to cough forcefully, speak, cry, breathe, or becomes unresponsive. If he's coughing, encourage him to cough up the object.
If the child becomes unresponsive
If a child who is choking on something becomes unresponsive, you'll need to do a modified version of CPR.
CPR - Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation
Place the child on his back on a firm, flat surface. Kneel beside his upper chest. Place the heel of one hand (two hands for older children and adults & two fingers if it is a baby) on his sternum (breastbone), at the centre of his chest. Place your other hand directly on top of the first hand. Try to keep your fingers off the chest by interlacing them or holding them upward.
Perform 30 compressions by pushing the child's sternum down about 2 inches. Allow the chest to return to its normal position before starting the next compression.
Open the child's mouth and look for a blockage. Never put your finger in his mouth unless you actually see a blockage. If you can't see one and you put your finger in his mouth, you might accidentally push the object deeper into his throat. If you see something, remove it with your fingers.
If you're unable to remove the blockage and the child is still unresponsive, give him two rescue breaths, like this:
Tilt the child's head back with one hand and lift his chin slightly with the other. This will open his airway. Pinch the child's nose shut, place your mouth over his, and exhale into his lungs until you see his chest rise.
If you don't see the chest rise, repeat the cycle of giving 30 compressions, checking for the object, and trying to give two rescue breaths until the object is removed and the child starts to breathe on his own, or help arrives.
After the incident, have the child checked by a healthcare provider.
Make a safe environment
I’m sure after reading this you’re off to check (or double check) your home now. Be sure to let anybody who looks after your child to know these steps as well.
Perhaps get yourself first aid trained also, always better to be prepared!