First Aid and Choking Prevention

By Jennifer Bright

November 24, 2020 6 min read

Moms are master jugglers of time — and money. Who among us ever has time — or money — to spare? But how much time and money would you spend to save your child's life? What if you could learn the basics in a few minutes — for free?

A website called FirstAidWeb Inc. offers free online CPR and first-aid courses. Visit this site to take online, self-guided classes. You can take quizzes afterward to test your progress.

These courses adhere to the American Red Cross and American Heart Association's guidelines. At the end, you receive CPR and first-aid certifications, which are good for two years. Any more excuses? I didn't think so!

Of course, you can also take first-aid and CPR courses at local hospitals, schools and the Red Cross. It might be more fun to do this with your spouse, parent or a friend.

One significant danger to toddlers and children up to age 5 is choking. Food is responsible for most choking incidents.

One reason why is because food — especially hard, smooth food — needs to be chewed with a grinding motion. You chew peanuts and baby carrots like that without even thinking about it! But children don't master this skill until around age 4. A child might actually give up on chewing the food and try to swallow the food whole. Anyone can choke on any food at any time. That's why children should always have company when eating. (Really, that's why you should have company while eating, too!) The following foods are particular choking hazards to children.

— Hot dogs and meat sticks.

— Grapes, cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks (unless they are chopped completely).

— Raisins, popcorn and peanuts.

— Hard candy and round candy such as jelly beans.

— Gum.

Many toddlers still explore the world by putting things into their mouths. So, it's important to keep small nonfood items out of your toddler's reach. Particular choking hazards include the following.

— Popped balloons.

— Pieces of plastic wrap and other thin plastic.

— Small toys and magnets.

— Marbles and other small balls.

— Coins.

A good rule of thumb is that if you can pass an object through a toilet paper roll tube, it's small enough for a child to choke on.

"When my youngest son was a toddler, he had a bad habit of putting entirely too much food in his mouth to chew and swallow comfortably," says Rallie McAllister, M.D., MPH, mom of three, co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year," nationally recognized health expert and family physician in Lexington, Kentucky. "I told him over and over to chew and swallow each piece of food before putting another one in his mouth, and I warned him that if he didn't, he might choke. But because he had never experienced choking, he didn't know what all the fuss was about.

"I tried everything I could think of to get my son to slow down and chew his food for more than a second or two, but nothing seemed to stick for very long. I was always worried that he would choke, so I never left him alone for a minute while he was eating.

"Once when he was eating chicken at our kitchen table, I noticed that he got very still. His eyes began to water, and he started making gagging sounds. My heart stopped, because I knew he was choking! I pulled him out of his chair and performed the Heimlich maneuver on him. Fortunately, the mouthful of chicken came right out, and my son was fine, but the experience of choking and not being able to breathe scared him to death. After that, my son was terrified of choking again. He started chewing each bite of his food until it was watery mush and ran out the corners of his mouth. He seemed to have developed a fear of swallowing his food.

"At first, I tried to reassure my son that there was a happy middle ground. He needed to take just one bite of food at a time and chew it properly, but he didn't need to chew each bite for five minutes. That didn't help much. He was still a bit traumatized by the experience of choking. His grandmother noticed that he was chewing his food excessively, and when she asked him about it, he got really embarrassed. At that point, I decided the best course of action was to just ignore my son's excessive chewing and see if a little tincture of time would help.

"It took about two months for my son to relax and begin chewing and swallowing his food without fear. During that time, I made a point of not saying a word about his odd eating behavior, and I made sure that everyone else in the family avoided discussing it as well. I felt certain that if we focused on it and made a big deal of it, we would only keep the problem alive and make it worse.

"Almost every child will choke on something at some point, so it's a great idea for parents to take a first-aid class so they'll be prepared to act quickly and effectively. It's also important for parents to keep small objects away from curious toddlers and to keep a close eye on their children when they're eating to make sure they can intervene if their child begins to choke. Being present and knowing how to respond to a choking incident could help you save your child's life."

Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, co-founder and CEO of family- and veteran- owned custom publisher Momosa Publishing, co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides team of 150+ mommy M.D.s, and co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years." She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: PublicDomainPictures at Pixabay

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