Choking risk factors to take into consideration

Choking risk factors to take into consideration

Choking risk factors to take into consideration

A choking incident can so easily happen, but there are various things to keep in mind, that if in the habit of practicing, can keep such frightening occurrences at a much lower risk. There are also various factors that place a person at higher risk, like those of a medical nature.

Some things to consider include:

  • Development stage: Children are often more vulnerable to choking, and particularly those younger than the age of 5. Little ones are inherently inquisitive and often place the things that they can grab into their mouths. Such occurrence can increase choking risk but may be reduced significantly by practicing responsible childminding. Keeping hazards out of reach can help to ensure that babies, toddlers and young children do not unknowingly place themselves at such risk.
  • Foodstuffs: Some types of foods are a little easier to choke on. Small items such as seeds and nuts, or round or firm foods like hardboiled sweets, grapes, popcorn or chunks of meat (including hot dogs and sausages), cheese or fruit and vegetables can easily slip down the throat without much chewing and become lodged in the airways. Sticky foods, such as peanut butter, marshmallows, chewing gum or chewy sweets can also lodge in the throat and cause a choking incident. Foods like biscuits which can easily break into smaller pieces while chewing can also easily slip back into the throat and become lodged as an obstruction. Special care should be given to children eating such foods, teaching little ones to consume food responsibly (and not attempt to swallow foods whole) so as to avoid a frightening situation. Special care may also be required when it comes to the elderly when eating, ensuring that meals and snacks are enjoyed safely without risk.
  • Behaviour: Eating quickly or talking and laughing, and even moving around (walking or running) with a mouthful of food can easily be avoided in order to reduce the risk of choking. Responsibility when it comes to household objects and toys can also help to considerably reduce the risk of choking on items other than food, and especially so when it comes to children. An effort to ensure that certain objects are not lying around for inquisitive hands to find will help to prevent a potentially life-threatening emergency. Small plastic items, balloons (broken or uninflated), coins, buttons, magnets, button batteries (often used in watches, car keys, hearing aids or even greeting cards with auditory function), beads, pebbles or marbles, pen caps, hair accessories, jewellery pieces, or even baby powders, vitamin supplements, medications, toys with small parts (which can break loose) and discarded items (trash) should all be packed away or discarded out of reach of children.
  • Medical conditions: Those with muscular or neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) or who have suffered from a stroke may experience difficulties with normal eating and swallowing function due to the nature of their disease and are at risk of choking. Dental problems or ill-fitted dentures also affect a person’s ability to eat, increasing the risk of choking due to improperly chewed food. Swelling, bleeding or deformities of the face or head, as well as enlarged tonsils and tumours in the neck or throat, and injuries to the oesophagus (windpipe / trachea) can also result in potential choking-like incidents due to medical problems or injury.

Baby girl sitting in a highchair eating raw, seasonal vegetables carrots, beans, peas, celery.

Ways to prevent choking incidents

Although choking incidents can easily happen accidently, they are very often preventable, and the following precautionary measures can be taken in order to reduce risk:

  • Eating habits: Cut foodstuffs into pieces which can be responsibly eaten and slowly and thoroughly chewed before swallowing. Extra care should be taken while chewing if you wear dentures. Eating on the move is not recommended. Rather remain stationary with little movement. Neither chewing nor swallowing function should occur at the same time as talking or laughing.
  • Care consideration for children: Keep choking hazard objects out of reach, discourage activity (walking, playing or running) while food is being eaten, supervise all mealtimes and snacks and ensure that high risk choking foods (like hardboiled sweets, grapes or chunks of foods like meat and cheese, peas or fruits) are not given to little ones under the age of 4.
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