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What Foods Are a Choking Hazard to Toddlers?

By Kathryn Hatter ; Updated June 13, 2017

As a toddler begins eating a greater variety of foods, the risk of choking skyrockets. Choking is one of the most prevalent causes of injury and death among children, particularly children younger than age 3, and more than 50 percent of choking incidents involve food, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Many foods pose choking risks for toddlers; in fact, these foods post high risks for all children younger than age 4.

Round and Oval Risks

Foods with round or oval shapes are among the foods the carry high risk of choking for toddlers. If a toddler swallows one of these without chewing, whether intentionally or accidentally, such as when laughing, this type of food is very dangerous because it can lodge in a young child's tiny trachea. Examples of round and oval shape foods include raw carrots, raisins, whole grapes, cherries with pits, nuts, hard candies, small ice cubes, and whole olives. Wait until your child is 4 years old before serving any of these to him.

Firm Foods

Some foods of any shape are dangerous for toddlers. These foods include tube shaped foods such as hot dogs and sausage, hard foods such as cheese, raw apples and pears and chunks of meat, and foods with bones that can be swallowed such as fish not properly filleted, according to the New York State Department of Health. Hot dogs cut into discs or coin-shaped pieces can be especially dangerous for toddlers do the slippery texture and round shape.

Hard and Crispy

Avoid giving your little one foods that fall into the hard or crispy category. Chips, pretzels and popcorn are light and dry enough to lodge dangerously in your child’s trachea, warns the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies. Foods with a hard, crispy texture can be difficult for a toddler to chew effectively, which could lead to choking.

Difficult to Chew

Chewy foods also pose a dangerous risk for toddlers. Your child may attempt to chew dried fruit, chewy candy, peanut butter, chewing gum, chewy meat and dense breads, but fail because the foods require more chewing than he can muster with limited teeth and inadequate chewing skills. If a toddler swallows a bite of food that he hasn't chewed effectively, choking could occur.

AAP Choking Prevention

The AAP instituted a choking prevention policy in 2010 to help reduce choking incidents. According to the policy, foods with high choking risks must carry a warning label. Recalls will occur with specific food products with high choking hazards. Food manufacturers will need to redesign both new and existing foods to reduce choking risks. No matter what your toddler is eating, decrease the choking hazard by ensuring he is sitting quietly and not playing or laughing raucously where he might accidentally swallow before chewing or inhale a bite of food in the excitement of play.

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