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Young children are naturally curious and are always exploring their environment. From as early as two months of age, babies start putting things in their mouths. Touching, feeling and mouthing any small item within reach is how babies and young children learn about their surrounding
Babies and toddlers have small airways that are easily blocked. In addition, their reflexes are not well developed and their bodies are not very strong, so they may have difficulties getting themselves out of trouble.
If your child is choking or having trouble breathing, call an ambulance immediately.
There are a number of items in and around the home that present a choking, suffocation or strangulation risk to infants and young children.
Certain foods can be dangerous for young children because they are easily inhaled and block the breathing tubes. These include 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.
Any small object can choke children under three years. Make sure that young children cannot reach or play with:
Choose age-appropriate toys that are well made, as less sturdy toys can break easily into small parts. Avoid toys that have small parts, especially if they can be removed.
Young children can get caught in dangling curtain cords, which can strangle them. Where possible, use curtains with rods instead of cords.
Plastic bags, dry cleaning bags and plastic wrap are especially dangerous for young children. A child can easily suffocate if these items are pulled over their head.
Choose a firm, close-fitting mattress.
Do not leave a sleeping baby unsupervised in a pram. Babies can become trapped and suffocate.
Be aware that cords and drawstrings on clothing such as parkas and hooded windcheaters can catch on play equipment.
By law, doors of fridges and freezers must be removed before disposal in a tip (or on the nature strip outside the house awaiting collection). Make sure that this is done at home if the fridge is no longer in use.
It is recommended anyone caring for children should do a first aid course and learn infant and child cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the case of an emergency.
In many cases, coughing will help dislodge the object.
If coughing doesn’t help dislodge the object, or the child
stops breathing at any time, call an ambulance. Follow the first aid steps outlined below.
Once the child is positioned appropriately:
If at any time the child becomes unconscious, call an
ambulance and start CPR.
Do not use the Heimlich manoeuvre (forceful squeezing of the
abdomen) at any time, as this can cause serious damage to internal organs.
Are amber teething necklaces safe for my baby?
Necklaces are not recommended for babies and young children. Even though most amber necklaces have knots in the cord between the beads, there is still a risk that one of the beads breaks off and your baby inhales it. There is also the risk that children can be strangled by the necklace if it
is worn during sleep or if it catches on furniture or play equipment. If it is important for you that your baby wears an amber necklace, then supervise your child carefully whenever the necklace is worn and always remove it before sleep.
How will I know if a toy is safe for my young child?
Avoid buying cheap toys from variety stores because they may not be made to acceptable safety standards. Also be careful when buying second hand toys, because they may be old and worn and likely to break. Also, they probably won't have the packaging, which gives important
safety information. Always follow the recommendations on toy packaging about the age for which the toy is suitable. Toys that state they are 'Not suitable for children under three' pose a choking risk – this is a safety message and doesn't relate to the child's intelligence or ability to work the toy.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Safety Centre. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed July 2018.
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.