Guest Post By Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN
For many, the holidays are a time to build fun memories with our children. However, with the holiday season come potential choking hazards every parent or caregiver should know.
One study on the topic of pediatric choking, found over 300,000 nonfatal injuries related to choking during the fifteen year study period. The majority of the injured children were younger than five.
7 Holiday Choking Hazards
Here are seven causes of choking during the holidays so you can avoid the emergency department this holiday season and focus on fun.
1. Latex Balloons
Kids love balloons, and for good reason. They’re fun! However, little kids, especially those under two, often explore the world with their mouths. While an inflated balloon poses little risk, if a child pops a balloon with their teeth, it could result in many choking-sized pieces.
The other consideration are uninflated balloons. Kids may put them in their mouths and try to blow them up. Or, young children may try to chew or eat them. Either of these could lead to an episode of choking.
Make sure to place any unblown balloons up high and out of reach of young kids. And, if you are using balloons this holiday season, ensure appropriate adult supervision when they’re out.
2. Small Toys
Holiday toy poppers, villages, train sets, and more all have the potential for small pieces a young child may put in their mouth. In addition, mixed age groups may play with lego sets, dollhouses, toy accessories, or other small items.
When feasible, keep the big kid toys away from any young children. However, this isn’t practical all the time, or with decorative toys you may find throughout a home.
Young children can be fast! So, if you spy small tempting toys within reach, ensure you’re keeping a close eye on the situation so you can quickly intervene if needed.
3. Ribbon or String
The holidays are a time for presents and decorations. And with gifts comes shiny ribbons and strings.
Help young children unwrap gifts and promptly place any decorative ribbons in a garbage bag. As pretty as they are, you don’t want any wrapping to end up in your child’s mouth!
As for decorations with ribbons and string, help your child look and not touch. It can be tempting for young kids to pull and put parts in their mouths.
4. Round Food
Round foods are notoriously dangerous for young children. Examples of places you might find these are bowls of nuts, charcuterie trays with whole grapes or olives, and candy bowls with round chocolates or other goodies.
Of course, these aren’t all the examples of round foods during the holidays. If round foods are on the menu, it is important to appropriately cut foods for young children. This typically means cutting them lengthwise.
For hard, round foods, such as nuts, that can’t easily be cut or are too difficult for young mouths to chew, avoid them altogether. If possible, ensure any trays or bowls with these items are out of reach.
5. Button Batteries
These are probably the most dangerous item on our list of holiday choking hazards. Not only can a child choke as they try to eat one, but these can also be deadly. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains that when these come into contact with body fluids, they can generate an electrical current. This current can burn holes internally, causing several problems.
You can learn more about the dangers of button batteries from this video Dr. Goudy posted.
Button batteries can hide in several items throughout the home. In decorations, they may be found in flameless candles lighting up a holiday display. Other spots include key fobs for cars, thermometers, scales, and even products made for children. For example, your kid’s fun light up shoes could be powered by one of these batteries.
6. Hard Candy
During the holidays pretty candy dishes filled with all kinds of tasty treats are popular. However, many of these treats are a dangerous size for young kids. And, they probably look especially tempting in sparkly foils and designs.
Keep hard candy out of reach and off display in your own home. If you are at a friend or family member’s home, it is perfectly acceptable to ask if the host can move any hard candies out of reach while your children are there.
7. Small Ornaments
Similar to hard candies, small ornaments can look tempting. Often covered in glitter or made of shiny material, small ornaments can be irresistible for young children to put in their mouths. However, they can easily block an airway.
If you have young children in your home, keep them up high and out of reach of little hands. Or, avoid using them altogether. There are large, plastic ones you could try instead while children are little.
If traveling to someone else’s home, keep an eye on your little one around small ornaments to ensure none go into their mouth.
The holidays should be a time for fun and building memories with your little ones. With the right precautions, you can avoid these seven common choking hazards and keep your children safe.
If you’re traveling this holiday season, consider sharing these seven choking hazards with friends or family members you are visiting. They may not have considered these risks and hopefully will be more than willing to help keep your kids safe.
And if you’re looking for more holiday safety tips, check out these tips for baby-proofing your home during the holidays!
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Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN, is a mother of four and a registered nurse with a background in pediatrics. When she's not working, you can find her cooking up tasty family dinners or keeping up with her kids on a hiking trail in her home state of Colorado.