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According to Dr. Dana Best, a pediatrician with the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, small children put toys in their mouths an average of 20 times an hour. Parents should need no other statistic than this to take choking hazards seriously. With this many opportunities for the wrong thing to go into a child’s mouth and the plethora of household items that could pose a choking risk, it’s amazing that child choking accidents aren’t an even bigger problem than they are.

Common Choking Hazards in Your Home


The choking hazards from balloons

These staples of childhood fun may seem harmless, but they are actually one of the most dangerous choking hazards you have lying around. This is for several reasons: 1) They are bright and attractive and made to go in a child’s mouth when they blow them up, 2) Many kids will chew on them like gum because of the unique rubbery texture, 3) Once swallowed, a balloon can work just like a natural diaphragm – contracting and expanding with a child’s breath while blocking their airway at the same time. A child essentially suffocates as they take in breaths of carbon dioxide that they just exhaled. 4) This, combined with a balloon’s slippery rubbery texture, makes them extremely difficult to remove. A child can’t cough it out as they might with a piece of food or other solid object, because the balloon’s expansion blunts the force of their cough. It’s very difficult to remove with a finger sweep or other method of first aid, since a wet balloon is not easily gripped when flush against a child’s esophagus. This combination of factors makes balloons a potential accident waiting to happen. It’s not necessary to completely restrict balloon play, but you do need to take precautions when using them.

Balloon safety for kids:

  1. Make sure kids understand the danger, and do not let them chew on balloons or put more than the tip into their mouth.
  1. If a balloon pops, be sure to pick up every piece, and keep balloons away from infants and toddlers. Tell other children to tell an adult if they find balloons lying around.

Choking dangers from foam products

Foam products such as nerf balls can pose a significant choking risk, because children can bite off pieces and swallow them, and the foam can become lodged in their airway. Also watch for foam inside furniture cushions, or that which comes as packing material. Don’t let children chew on these items, and discard any pieces. Keep these items away from pets, and search thoroughly if a pet chews one up to ensure there are no pieces lying around where a small child could reach them.

Choking dangers from foam packing peanuts

Unlike foam, which a child must bite off, these often come pre-molded in the perfect size to block a child’s airway. Keep them away from younger kids.

Choking Hazards from broken toys

Another common source of choking is broken, damaged, or defective toys. If you follow product recalls as we do, you’ll notice that recalls are frequently made because something detached from an object or can break away, and this piece of it has killed some kids. A plastic three-wheeler tricycle is recalled because a plastic key could be removed and present a choking hazard; a McDonald’s toy has some component that when broken off will lodge in a child’s airway; etc. So be sure to monitor for breaking down or broken toys and discard them.

Other choking hazards:

  • Coins
  • Marbles
  • Food (see food choking hazards for children)




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