A Guide to Common Choking Hazards

Foods and toys to avoid for children 3 and under.
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Choking is the leading cause of accidental death in children younger than 1 year old. Kids remain at risk of choking until they reach the age of 5 because they are inexperienced at chewing their food, and they tend to put everything they can get their hands on into their mouths. As a result, such common household items as coins and latex balloons can be hazardous.

Don't give your child round, firm foods such as cut-up hot dogs, grapes, carrots, or candy because they can lodge in a child's throat and obstruct the airway. Clumps of foods like sticky candy and peanut butter can also easily become lodged in a child's airway. Be especially vigilant about choking dangers when your child is sampling new foods, usually beginning around age 1.

There are several things you can do to reduce your child's risk of choking:

  • Cut food into small pieces.
  • Teach your child to chew her food well.
  • Don't leave your child alone while she's eating.
  • Make sure kids eat only while sitting down.
  • Check out our list of common choking hazards to learn which foods and household items can be harmful to kids.

Foods to avoid

The following foods are hazards. Kids who are learning to feed themselves often don't know how to thoroughly chew their food. Avoid these foods until your child is 6.

  • Hot dogs
  • Nuts
  • Grapes
  • Popcorn
  • Raw carrots
  • Raisins
  • Celery
  • Hard or sticky candy
  • Chunks of meat or cheese
  • Chunks of peanut butter

Hazardous household items

When you are buying toys for your child, always check the package for a warning label to see if the item has any small parts. Most baby stores sell cylindrical tubes that are designed to help parents check the diameter of small toys. If a toy slips into the tube, it is not safe for a child under 3 years of age. If you have an older child, be especially careful that his toys are kept away from your baby or toddler. Some common choking hazards are:

  • Latex balloons
  • Coins
  • Marbles
  • Small toy parts
  • Pen or marker caps
  • Small button-type batteries
  • Small, compressible toys


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