Urgent warning over choking hazards after spike in the number of children hospitalised last year

Picture: Getty Images
Picture: Getty Images 

Choking is among every parent's greatest fears. And experts are calling for extra vigilance after a spike in the number of incidents among young children.

Incidents among kids aged five and under jumped 17 per cent in 2019-2020, with 203 children requiring hospital treatment. 

The jump prompted Kidsafe Victoria to urge parents to be aware of the everyday household items that can pose a hazard to children, as well as to consider taking a first aid course. 

Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit (VISU), who provided the statistics, said food was a common hazard, particularly among toddlers. 

Kidsafe Victoria general manager Jason Chambers said any object smaller than a 20 cent coin could obstruct a child's airway. 

A simple way to check if by using a pediatrician's simple toilet roll hack - anything that passes easily through the hole is a potential choking hazard. Or by doing the same using your thumb and index finger.

"Apples, grapes, popcorn, corn chips, nuts, dried fruit, lollies, raw vegetables, pieces of meat, marshmallows and sausages are all common types of foods that can pose a choking hazard for children", Mr Chambers said.

He said the risk could be mitigated by parents avoiding certain foods and preparing others in a child-safe way. 

"For babies and toddlers, popcorn, nuts, whole grapes, hard lollies, corn chips and other similar foods should be avoided. Other foods can be cooked, grated, mashed, minced or chopped up, to help reduce the risk."

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Other items that pose a danger include coins, pen lids, button batteries, jewellery, small toys or toy parts and marbles.

Other common choking hazards around the home include coins, pen lids, button batteries, jewellery, marbles and other small toys or parts off of toys.

It's a warning echoed by Dr Cathy McAdam, Head of General Paediatrics at Monash Children's Hospital, who said first aid was a lifesaving tool in a choking situation.

"You don't have time to wait for the ambulance. You must act immediately," Dr McAdam said..

"Young children have smaller, softer airways that can easily become blocked. They have fewer teeth and are still learning to chew and swallow properly. They get easily distracted and may suddenly inhale a piece of food so you need to supervise them and minimise distractions during mealtimes."

"Be your child's superhero and do a first aid course that focuses on first aid for kids. There are many around. You'll find it fun, interesting and you may save a life one day!"

Kidsafe's tips to prevent choking:

  • Ensure children sit while they are eating and always supervise them
  • Avoid popcorn, nuts, whole grapes, hard lollies, corn chips or other similar foods
  • Cook, grate or mash hard foods, including fruits and vegetables such as apples and carrots
  • Cut sausages, frankfurts and other meats with coarse outer skins into small pieces and remove the skin
  • Cut stringy meats such as chicken and steak into small pieces or mince them
  • Anything smaller than a 20 cent coin can pose a choking hazard - keep these items out of the sight and reach of little hands
  • When purchasing toys, always follow the age recommendations - these relate to the toys' safety and not to the intelligence or capability of the child using the toy
  • Keep older children's toys away from younger children