Skip to main content

Children Choking: How to Prevent It

I live in a suburb of New Orleans and have been writing here off and on for 10 years. I have been married 53 years to the same crazy guy.

Grapes can be a choking hazard to young children.

Grapes can be a choking hazard to young children.

A Child's Small Trachea

A small child's trachea is the size of a drinking straw. Just imagine how a piece of popcorn could lodge over it and block off the air supply. It's not that hard to do. Children should eat their meals in an unhurried environment, never feeling rushed to hurry up and finish. They should be provided both food and liquids, but they should never ingest both at the same time, instead, taking sips of drink between bites. Small children should never, ever eat while running, playing, and moving around, but should be sitting down while they eat.

Here are some foods to look out for as potential choking hazards for young children (and solutions to cut that risk down):

  • Grapes - Cut in halves or fourths.
  • Hot dogs - Slice lengthwise.


  • In the United States, 10,000 children under the age of 5 are taken to the emergency room every year as a result of choking.
  • One child dies every five days in the United States as a result of choking.

Grapes: Cut In Halves or Fourths

Choking is the fourth-largest cause of unintentional death in children under 5 years old. I am writing this article because I just heard of another small child who choked to death on a grape. Over five years ago, an employee told me of a neighbor whose child got a grape stuck in his windpipe. The mother and grandfather did the Heimlich maneuver repeatedly to no avail. They had to watch the child die as they waited for an ambulance. Recently a woman who joined the lucid dreaming group I attend said she lost her granddaughter the same way. This is entirely too tragic and I am hoping to make people more aware of the problem. Two small children have died within five years, just within my small circle of acquaintances; and that is two too many.

Obviously, a parent who is giving a child grapes to eat rather than candy or other junk food is doing a good thing. Unfortunately, grapes are inherently dangerous for children under five years old. A small child will accidentally swallow a grape whole and it will lodge in their windpipe, closing off the child's ability to breathe. Sometimes the Heimlich maneuver works; sometimes it doesn't. Anyone with small children should read up on how to perform the maneuver. We all have a vague idea of what to do, but if a life is at stake, we need to know exactly. Here is a link that will take you to the appropriate page. It is furnished by the National Institutes of Health. If you have a small child or even if you don't, read up on the Heimlich maneuver. You might save a life.

Grapes should always be cut into fourths. This way, children get wonderful nutrition without the risk. I have talked to numerous parents of small children about this because I interact with a lot of them in my work. One thing they bring up is that their children attend birthday parties where grapes are served since nutrition is so much more a factor than in times past when it was ice cream and cake. They say they hate to be a party-pooper. My answer is either poop the party or risk your child's life. Don't be ridiculous. Most of the parents there will appreciate the fact that you cut up your child's grapes and will do the same. Also, remember to caution anyone who cares for your children about cutting up their food and keeping them safe from choking.

Cut the hot dogs lengthwise to minimize choking hazards for young children.

Cut the hot dogs lengthwise to minimize choking hazards for young children.

Hot Dogs: Slice Lengthwise

Wieners should never ever be sliced in medallions. These food items, like grapes, can lodge in a child's windpipe and cut off their air supply. Cut the wieners length-wise. Once again, if you're at a party and hot dogs are served, ask for a knife and cut the wiener length-wise. If anyone remarks that you're being paranoid, tell them there's no such thing when it comes to a child choking.

Spread the Word

Wieners and grapes are two of the very biggest offenders; however, popcorn and peanut butter are dangerous also, especially when peanut butter is served on white bread. The peanut butter mixes with the bread and forms a glob that blocks the trachea.

I remember watching a program on TV a few years ago about a woman whose grandchild choked to death on a hot dog while she and her daughter did the Heimlich maneuver over and over and waited for an ambulance that arrived too late. She was spending her days going from one venue to another trying to make people more aware of how much can be taken away in the blink of an eye. Talk to anyone who will listen about this issue when the moment presents itself. You may just save a life.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Sue Pratt

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Wehavekids


Sue Pratt (author) from New Orleans on July 29, 2013:

Just want all these weird people to go away. How do I accomplish that? they keep commenting

on my hubs!

Sue Pratt (author) from New Orleans on September 17, 2012:

Thank you so much for your comments. If it prompts one mom to

cut up food, it's worth it. I can't imagine giving a small child a jawbreaker, but people no crazy things all the time. I'm glad you brought up doing the maneuver with a chair and plan to look it up and get my daughter to teach it to the grandchildren.

Thanks again,


Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on September 17, 2012:

Thanks for this very important reminder! I have always been the type of person to err on the side of caution, especially where small children are concerned.

One of my grandsons (now an adult) came to visit me when he was a few years old, straight from the home of another relative. While he was there, he was given--of all things--a jawbreaker! Even older children can choke on that large ball of hard candy, and smaller children should never be allowed to suck on them.

Well, my grandson got choked just a few minutes after entering my living room, and even though panic-stricken, I performed the Heimlich on him. The partially-melted hard candy ball popped out, and I nearly fainted from relief!

The Heimlich maneuver is a wonderful life-saving procedure, and EVERYONE should know how to perform it. People (even children) can save themselves if they choke when alone if they know how to use a chair to do a version of the Heimlich.

Thanks so much for sharing this information.


Related Articles