Every five days in the U.S. alone, a child dies from choking on food. In addition, over 10,000 children come to U.S. emergency rooms every year for food choking episodes. Most of these kids are under four years old, although it can happen to older kids as well.
Because of their immature swallowing control, lack of a complete set of molars (which usually fully develop at age six), rare ability to sit still while eating, and poor coordination protecting their breathing passages, young children are the group most frequently affected by food choking. It is one of the leading causes of accidental injuries in the home for this age group, and it is the fourth leading cause of accidental death in kids under age 14 years.
The toddler years are a time when a child gains more independence from parents and caregivers. Since toddlers are playful, adventurous, and rarely like to sit still, safe eating is usually not on their minds. But it should be on ours. Unfortunately, we as parents and caregivers do not have access to established guidelines regarding food safety in children. While we can go into any toy store and check the labels for safety, ‘small-parts’, and appropriateness based on the ‘age’ label, we can get a bit lost in the grocery store, where virtually no such labels exist.