Choking, Suffocation & Strangulation
In the UK approximately 30 children die each year due to choking, suffocation or strangulation. Approximately 2500 children are admitted to UK Accident & Emergency departments annually. In the US a child dies every 5 days through choking on food while 10,000 have to go to a hospital emergency room due to food choking. Nearly a thousand children die of unintentional suffocations. In the US nearly 1000 children strangle to death each year. The vast majority of these are under 5 years old.
To minimise choking, suffocation & strangulation risks, study our tips below and try to make sure you are aware of (and mitigate against) as many as possible.
Choking, Suffocation & Strangulation Avoidance Tips
- Learn how to perform first aid / CPR on a choking child
- Balloons are a huge choking hazard and are the biggest child killer of all toys. Avoid having them.
- Check your house over for other choking hazards (coins, pen tops etc.) and remove them
- Never allow children to sleep in your bed or an older sibling. You or the sibling could unintentionally suffocate them. Children die every year for exactly this reason.
- Do not use soft bedding e.g. large pillows that could suffocate your child
- Supervise young children eating at all times.
- Always cut food into small pieces for young children and avoid small, hard or round foods such as sweets/candy, nuts, hotdogs, popcorn, grapes, carrots, cheese cubes etc. Make sure older siblings are aware not to give out these foods.
- Ensure children eat while sitting down and not while moving around. Make sure they are not hurried.
- If children play on playground equipment, make sure they do not wear clothes with drawstrings. This used to be the biggest cause of strangulation death on playgrounds but the UK banned these many years ago.
- Avoid window blinds. These pose a strangulation hazard. If you must have them, ensure the cord meets the latest standards and is fitted with an attachment to prevent a loop forming. Cords must also be kept out of reach.
- Don't keep nappy sacks in a place that is accessible to babies. These can suffocate children and if sucked can be choked upon. Other plastic bags also need to be removed.
- Ensure that the slats between cribs/cots are designed to international standards which would not allow a small child's head to fit in between. This is approximately 6cm or 2.37 inches.
- Ensure loose parts of toys [e.g. eyes from stuffed animals] do not come off and then become a choking hazard
- Young children should only be given toys with parts too big to swallow
- You should only purchase toys from reputable outlets and buy brand names you recognise
- If you have toy boxes that young children can climb in, make sure the lids have plenty of ventilation holes or better still don't have a lid. Hiding games can end up in disaster if children become trapped and oxygen starts to deplete.
- Do not allow access to the washing machine or tumble dryer, keep these locked or inaccessible at all times. Again a hiding game quickly becomes a dangerous event when oxygen depletion kicks in.
- Ensure outdoor fencing (just like cribs) do not pose a strangulation hazard due to slat spacing.
- Only purchase toys for your child's age range (all toys should be marked with this) and only allow access to toys of this age range
- If you have older children or know friends who do then you must be aware that many of their toys can pose a real hazard to your younger child. Small parts or loose hair are a few examples of dangers that may lurk in an older child's toy-box. Supervision is key here.
- Check all toys have the relevant national/ international safety standard markings. The 'CE' mark in the UK indicates the manufacturer is stating the toy satisfies the requirements of the EC Toy Safety Directive. In addition, there is the British Toy and Hobby Association's 'Lion Mark' which is a voluntary standard in the UK.
- Avoid toys with small mercury disc batteries which could easily be swallowed by a young child.
- The crib/cot mattress must fit snugly inside the cot with only 1 inch (2.5 cm) maximum around the edges. This will help to minimise the risk of suffocation.
- Do not hang toys in the crib/cot with cords. These are a strangulation hazard
- Give young children no access to cords & ropes , even skipping ropes. Rope swings are particularly dangerous. Electrical cords are often cited in child accidental strangulations so keep these away from children. Even Christmas tree lights have killed children. Dog leashes and strong necklaces are also possible dangers.
- To minimise risks further, teach kids never to put anything round their neck and also minimise climbing.