A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Surprising choking hazards in your home

Choking hazards 4-21 inside

Risk of choking begins as early as four-months old and continues well into toddler years while children explore their surroundings.

Risk of choking increases as children begin to crawl and explore their surrounding world.

“Children are at risk for choking as early as four- to five-months old,” said Dr. Laurie Peterson, a Marshfield Clinic urgent care and pediatrics physician.

Guide to a choke-free home

As babies begin to crawl, they find things we can’t see from where we stand like parts and pieces of household items, food within their reach or older siblings’ toys.

“Choking risk continues into years beyond baby months as toddlers begin to run with objects in their mouths, having chewing gum when they’re too young, talking with food in their mouths or taking large bites,” Peterson said.

Use this guide to help prevent your toddlers or babies from choking.


Peanut butter
It’s thick and sticky. Just like a spoonful can easily stick to the roof of your mouth, peanut butter can easily clog your child’s airway. Spread thinly.

“There’s a point where you’ll want to begin feeding your baby or toddler food the rest of your family is eating at dinner,” Peterson said. “That’s okay, but you have to keep in mind that they can’t yet chew their food.”

Cut chicken, turkey and other lunchmeats into pea-sized pieces.

Inspect all fish and other meat for hidden bones.

Hot dogs
Round slices are the perfect size to block a child’s airway. Slice hotdogs into noodle-like strips.

Similar to a hot dog’s shape, carrots match a child’s throat just right. Chop and cook carrots for babies. Cut and slice into strips for toddlers.

Grapes (or other fruits)
Grapes are particularly dangerous for babies and children. The safest method is to cut grapes into quarters. Apply this to strawberries, banana slices and other fruits.

Appearing to be soft, squishy and easy-to-eat, marshmallows are a hazard in disguise. Marshmallows’ expandable qualities make them difficult to swallow and easy to choke on.

Popcorn, peanuts and nuts
Adults eat these snacks by the handful. Kids want to do the same. Hold off on such snacks until your child is past toddler age.

Hard candy
Hard candy is a common choking hazard, yet many children still get ahold of it.

“If you have older children in the home, help teach them what candy is meant for older kids,” said Peterson. “Teach them to ask permission to give any food to their younger siblings.”

Around the house

Pet food
Monitor your pets as they eat and move their dishes out of reach when they’re done eating.

You can use magnet letters or playful refrigerator magnets for teaching purposes when you’re monitoring your toddler. In all other instances, put magnets out-of-reach. Always double check they are properly put together and magnets are not missing.

Many household items, like round, shiny batteries, look like candy to a child. Keep batteries out-of-reach as well as the items to which they belong. You’ll be surprised by your child’s ability to take items apart.

Laundry pods
Bright-blue, yellow, orange and white laundry pods are not only dangerous choking hazards, they also can cause chemical burns. Be cautious about where you keep these.

Water bottle caps
Water bottles are like crinkly noisemakers for a child. The more they play with them, the easier it becomes to take off the cap.

Doorstop toppers
Take off doorstop toppers or secure them with superglue.

Make a rule in your house about coins. For example, all coins go into a jar on top of the fridge as soon as you get home.

Beanbag chairs
Static, foam pellets are fun, but they’re also dangerous. It only takes a couple of them to block a baby’s airway. Either put beanbag chairs in storage until baby is older, or get rid of them entirely.

Latex balloons
No balloons are better than any balloons – blown or deflated. A blown balloon that pops may go straight from your child’s hand to his mouth.

Print choking hazards


Teach family members

Share this choking hazard list with family members your child sees frequently like grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters and siblings.

Teach them your tips:

  • Place candy dishes, coin jars and laundry pods out-of-reach.
  • Quarter fruits and vegetables and cut all foods into small, bite-sized pieces.
  • Inspect toys and household items for small parts.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Peterson said. “What’s an extra minute to cut smaller pieces or quickly inspect a new toy?”

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