Product Safety Alert

This is Why Young Children Shouldn’t Be Given Popcorn


On a recent trip to Disneyland, Lakynn Dockers let her two young kids try popcorn. Her kids – Hadlee and Briar, had never tried popcorn before but she figured a few little pieces wouldn’t hurt. It ended up nearly costing her one of her son’s life. Now she shares what happened to remind other parents about the popcorn dangers in young children. 

As Lakynn shares on Tiny Hearts Education,

I have always been a play-by-the-rule-book mama. Having a second baby has made me more laid back and confident to make some decisions that test those limits.

Just about a month ago we let [older child] Hadlee have popcorn for the first time. We all were enjoying popcorn during a trip at Disneyland so of course Briar wanted some. I let him join in knowing it was a no-no but telling myself everything would be just fine, DON’T do that.”

As Lakynn explains, Briar had a bite of popcorn in his mouth. Lakynn went to take the bucket of popcorn away as they were about to get on a ride, but Briar got upset. 

He sucked in to cry and inhaled the popcorn- it went down his throat. He cleared it quickly but obviously didn’t clear it all on his own. He cried and coughed for a while but we felt like it was behavioral.”

After 15 minutes of watching Briar continue to be upset, Lakynn started to worry that something was seriously wrong. Her little boy wasn’t coughing anymore but she could hear a bit of wheezing from him. She also noticed an irregular breathing pattern starting. 

Mother’s instinct

Lakynn rushed over to the First Aid knowing in her gut something was wrong. The First Aid staff checked him over – he had good colour and his oxygen levels were fine. However, the wheezing was a worry and they called the Paramedics just to be sure. 

Paramedics gave Briar the same report – good colour, good oxygen, vitals were clear. They believed the popcorn likely scratched his throat causing discomfort and the wheeze was from crying. As the family waited in the First Aid, Briar’s breathing pattern appeared to be getting better too.

Lakynn took Briar back to the hotel room and watched him sleep for three hours.

He woke up fussy and with a wheeze but a normal breathing pattern. After nap time, the family returned to Disneyland for a few more hours before Briar fell asleep in his pram and Lynlee noticed his breathing was laboured again. Lakynn contacted her doctor back home who told her she needed to call 911. 

At this point his breathing was so laboured, Eastin [husband] and I began to get frantic. Paramedics arrived and loaded us on board where he got some oxygen. Briar was admitted immediately to the children’s hospital in Orange County.”

Briar was rushed for emergency service at 1 am after doctors confirmed he had popcorn remnants stuck in both his lungs that were causing an obstructed airway.

popcorn dangers
Little Briar was admitted to ER for emergency surgery. Source: Tiny Hearts Education

They prepared us that it was high risk but it wasn’t until the surgeon came in to talk with us that we understood how high risk it was. The surgeon made it clear that it was very likely Briar would not make it through his surgery due to his low oxygen levels and anticipating that the popcorn had expanded.

He wanted us to realize how serious it was and that there was a great possibility Briar would not be coming back out.

All we could do was cling to our baby and beg the doctors to bring him back out safe to us. It was the worst 1.5 hour of our lives as we sat there waiting and praying for a miracle.”

Thankfully, Briar survived the surgery and is recovering in the NICU. 

mum central
Source: Tiny Hearts Education

He is a miracle. We were the “one in a million.”

A reminder for all parents

Lakynn shares Briar’s story because she hopes no other parent will make the same mistake. We at Mum Central do the same – not to scare or cause anxiety (there’s enough anxiety in parenting as is), but just to remind everyone that popcorn can be really dangerous for toddlers and young children.

As Lakynn adds, 

We will share with you what our surgeon shared with us…with kids in these cases many of them are brain dead before they even get to him.

Do NOT give nuts, popcorn, grapes, raisins to kids under four. Thanks for the continued prayers for our boy as he continues to improve. We are so happy and thankful to be snuggling him today!”

Choking and inhalation hazards to be aware of

The Royal Children’s Hospital also sites a few more common hazards around the house which can present a choking, suffocation or inhalation risk to infants and young children.

Food: nuts, raw carrots and other hard vegetables, pieces of apple, popcorn, corn chips, lollies and grapes. Children under the age of three years may not have their full set of teeth and can’t chew properly, so any food that is small and firm is a choking hazard.

Small objects: needles, pins or safety pins, coins, small magnets and small batteries, buttons, beads, marbles, the tops of ballpoint pens and polystyrene beads (found in stuffed toys and bean bags), which are all easily inhaled. My daughter ended up in the hospital after inhaling a bead as a baby (a terrible experience!). 

Toys and play equipment:  Don’t allow your baby or young child to have access to toys smaller than a D-sized battery (e.g. marbles, small building blocks, or small bouncy balls)

See the full list at the Royal Children’s Hospital.  

For more information

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Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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