How to Prevent Choking and Gagging

One of the very real dangers that comes with the introduction of solid baby foods in babies is choking. In fact, gagging and choking are among the most prevalent dangers for children of any age. It is impossible to prevent all risks associated with gagging, but you can be prepared and take steps to minimize the likelihood.

Get Trained

Your first step is to take an infant CPR and choking course. Food is by far not the only item that will go into your child’s mouth, so a course on how to handle any object in a choking situation is well worth the time. You can take the course while preparing for your child’s birth or soon after, but it is extremely beneficial to all parents.

A course will show you the correct way to handle a gagging or choking baby – and the procedure changes as your child ages. Knowing what do to in an emergency is just as important – perhaps more so – than attempting to prevent it from ever occurring.

The Difference Between Choking and Gagging

There is a substantial difference between choking and gagging. Many children gag as they learn to control their tongues and swallowing mechanisms. Gagging happens with alarming frequency for many children, although once a month is frequent – not once a day or week. Choking is a situation where an obstruction has entered the airway and can not be easily dislodged. Choking is life-threatening as air supply is being cut-off and knowing how to handle the situation can save your child’s life as there is often no time to wait for paramedics to arrive in a severe situation.

Avoiding Gagging and Choking

Both gagging and choking occur when objects or food obstructs or come too close to the airway. Gagging is a reflex when food comes too close to the back of the throat without swallowing and choking is a true blockage. Gagging is usually resolved by the child coughing or moving the food away from the back of his mouth on his own – interfering too early can make gagging more serious than it is, so watch your child to see if he can clear the problem on his own first.

Feed Small Bites

When spoon feeding your child, offer him small bites. Loading up a spoon might make the meal go faster, but it will also give your baby more food to handle in his tiny mouth. Small bites are easier to handle and allow them to swallow safely.

Avoid Thick Foods

Thick cereals such as rice or oatmeal and other foods such as peanut butter are thick and tend to be sticky inside the mouth. When feeding your baby cereals, make them creamy – not clumpy to be sure they won’t be too hard for your little one to handle. Peanut butter should be avoided for at least one year and then spread very thinly to avoid thick clumps that can be potentially dangerous.

Cut Finger Foods

Finger foods are the first food stage where true choking is a very real possibly. The two worst foods for choking are two childhood favorites – hot dogs and grapes. To make these a finger food, you should cut them, but avoid cutting them across only. Making circles out of the food just makes it more perfect for filling up an airway. Cut the food across into circles and then lengthwise as well to make smaller pieces which are both easier to eat and less likely to exactly fill your child’s airway.

Skip Hard Items

Children and even adults can have difficulties with hard foods such as nuts, popcorn, and hard candy. These items should be avoided ideally until your child is closer to six or seven and then eaten sparingly to reduce risk under close supervision.

Leave a Reply