“This is not an easy image to look at, I know. But it is an important reminder about the reality of choking in children.”
This is the message provided by child safety and first aid organisation Tiny Hearts Education. The company shared a confronting image of a peanut lodged in the child’s trachea, which “heartbreakingly resulted in their death”.
No nuts for children under five
In the photo, we can clearly see half a peanut logged in the trachea – the tube that connects the voice box with the bronchi which sends air to the lungs. The nut is clearly obstructing the air and it’s quite a scary thing to think about, especially when you consider just how small a peanut is.
Small objects can easily become lodged and it’s not just nuts to be aware of. Tiny Hearts Education founder, Nikki Jurcutz shares a few more common foods to avoid in little ones:
- Raw fruits and vegetables
- Sausages and chunks of meat
- Nuts, seeds, popcorn kernels and fruit pips
- Hard lollies, marshmallows and chewing gum
“Little ones don’t have their full set of teeth and a mature chew yet, which is why I’ve made it a rule for my own family “No whole nuts for a child under 5.”,” she shares.
Why popcorn should also be off-limits
Earlier in the year Tiny Hearts also shared a story of a toddler who choked on a small piece of popcorn. The little one had slightly choked while swallowing a piece but wasn’t fully choking. Over the next few hours, he started to wheeze and experience an irregular breathing pattern starting.
He was rushed to the ER where doctors confirmed there were popcorn remnants stuck in both his lungs that were causing an obstructed airway. You can read his story here.
Additional choking and inhalation hazards to be aware of
In addition to the foods cited above, 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 of choking hazards at the Royal Children’s Hospital.
What to do if your child is choking
Tiny Hearts Education founder Nikki shares a really important video for parents who may be faced with a choking child, demonstrating step-by-step what you need to do:
- First thing is call triple-0, put them on speaker and get them coming your way.
- Grab your child, support their head, neck and jaw and place them in a downward position across your lap.
- Using the palm of your hand, deliver five sharp back blows in between their shoulder blades.
- Check-in between each back blow to make sure the airway hasn’t been cleared.
- If the back blows don’t clear their airway, you’ll flip your child over.
- Putting their head and neck, put them onto your lap again, using that downward position and gravity to help, place your two fingers where you’d usually deliver CPR compressions and deliver five sharp chest thrusts.
- Check in the airway to make sure that it hasn’t been cleared.
- Alternate between back blows and chest thrusts until the ambulance arrives or your child becomes unconscious.
- If your child becomes unconscious, manually pump the heart of your baby to move oxygen around and keep their organs alive.
Check out the video here. She also cites the things parents should not do, including starting First Aid before calling Triple 0 (call first), hanging the child upside down completely and sticking your finger in their mouth to try and remove the object. It’s also a good idea for every parent to consider taking a first aid course.
For more information
- Tiny Hearts Education First Aid Courses
- Kids Health Info fact sheet: Swallowed (ingested) foreign bodies
- Consumer Affairs Victoria: Toy and Nursery Safety Line, ph. 1300 364 894
- ACCC: Product Safety Australia
- Anyone caring for young children should take a course in children’s first aid. See Australian Red Cross, Emergcare, St John Ambulance Australia, The Royal Life Saving Society.
What to read next
- Mum’s Warning About Just How Quickly a Swallowed Button Battery Can Cause Damage
- How to Save a Choking Baby
- Message After Her Baby Dies from Choking on a Muffin