September is Baby Safety Awareness month, and pediatricians are warning parents of children the age of 4 to be on the lookout for choking hazards.
According to Texas Health, accidental choking kills nearly 4,000 adults and children each year in the U.S. About 2/3rds of the children who die from choking are under age 4.
One doctor explains that once babies reach four to six months of age, they begin grabbing anything within reach and putting what they find into their mouth.
Food is also a concern. Once older infants can sit up on their own, Texas Health Steps says soft foods can be cut into small pieces no larger than one-half inch. Doctors say be sure to cut up things like grapes into quarters or hot dogs long ways. They also worry about popcorn, peanuts, and chewing gum.
“Those are the things that we see in the children’s era that really caused damage. And we always want to promote good chewing of all your food and avoid distracted eating that will help at home,” said Dr. Dominic Lucia, Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center.
The following mealtime supervision guidelines from the Texas Health and Human Services recommend parents and caregivers of children 3 years and younger:
- Always supervise mealtimes. Never leave a young child alone with food.
- Young infants should eat pureed foods.
- Once older infants can sit up on their own, then soft foods can be cut into small pieces no larger than one-half inch.
- Encourage children to chew food well. Insist that children sit down while eating.
- Children should never run, walk, play or lie down with food in their mouths.
Here are additional choking prevention tips from Texas Health. They say:
- Do not offer—or allow siblings to offer—unsafe foods to a baby or toddler. These include hot dogs, nuts, chunks of meat, grapes, hard candy, popcorn, chunks of peanut butter and uncooked vegetables.
- Keep toys with small parts and other small household items (buttons, round disc batteries, coins, etc.) out of your baby’s or toddler’s reach.
- Do not give your baby or toddler a balloon without strict supervision. Pieces of balloons that pop (especially near or in a young child’s mouth) can quickly become a dangerous choking hazard.