There are several simple safety rules that you can teach children which will greatly reduce the odds of choking, as well as reduce the risks that a younger child around them might gain access to a choking hazard.
Teaching children what to do if they’re choking
- Teach children the universal sign for choking, which is to cross your arms with both hands on your throat. If this doesn’t get attention, they should keep one hand on their throat and point with the other one while banging a table or a wall to get attention.
- Teach children the self-Heimlich maneuver. Simply find the corner of a table or other such object, position the corner against the top of their stomach, and push into it while thrusting upward. Also show them how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on someone else – it may come in handy. (See Performing the Heimlich Maneuver in our Health & Safety Section.)
Choking prevention safety for kids
- Make all children, but especially older kids age five and above, aware of some of the different choking hazards around the house. Teach them this not only for their own safety, but remind them to keep an eye on little kids who might put these items in their mouth.
- All kids preschool-age and above should be made aware of the dangerous foods – such as hot dogs and steak – and be regularly reminded to chew these foods carefully and thoroughly. Even if you always make a habit of slicing them up safely, other people in other situations might not, and it never hurts to build a safety habit.
- Tell children to never chew on balloons or put more than the very tip of them into their mouth. Remind kids to tell an adult if they find balloons or pieces of balloons lying around, and then praise them for doing so.
Print a Balloon Safety Coloring Sheet for your kids
- Make kids aware of the dangers of running with something in their mouth; whether that is food, candy, or any other object. Also make them aware of the dangers of eating candy while lying down, and reinforce the rule to “always sit up while eating candy.”
- As a general rule, don’t put things in your mouth! Explain that many kids choke because they suck on something they don’t intend to eat, and then accidentally swallow it.
Choking prevention rules for eating
- Teach children not to talk with their mouths full, as this increases the chances of choking.
- Be a stickler for this rule: children are not allowed to play or run around while snacking or eating. Many choking accidents occur because children are playing or running around with food or candy in their mouth. Have them sit down when they eat.
- Teach children about the dangers of soft candy. Better yet, demonstrate it to them: take some play-dough and rip it up into small pieces. Pretend the pieces are skittles. Then take a piece and ask them, “do you think this could block your throat and keep you from breathing? Then one by one, add the pieces and clump them together while asking the same question. Explain that soft candies are just like this play-dough, so they should never try to eat too much at one time and always chew very carefully. If you draw a face on your hand and get silly about it, this makes a good group time demonstration that teachers can do with younger kids.