Infant choking: How to keep your baby safe
Infant choking is scary, but it's largely preventable. Understand why babies are so vulnerable to choking — and what you can do to prevent infant choking.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Worried about infant choking? Find out the common causes of infant choking and what you can do to help protect your baby from choking hazards.
Why are babies vulnerable to choking?
Choking is a common cause of injury and death in young children, primarily because their small airways are easily obstructed. It takes time for babies to master the ability to chew and swallow food, and babies might not be able to cough forcefully enough to dislodge an airway obstruction. As babies explore their environments, they also commonly put objects into their mouths — which can lead to infant choking.
Sometimes health conditions increase the risk of choking as well. Children who have swallowing disorders, neuromuscular disorders, developmental delays and traumatic brain injury, for example, have a higher risk of choking than do other children.
What are the most common causes of infant choking?
Food is the most common cause of infant choking. However, small objects, parts from toys and certain types of behavior during eating — such as eating while distracted — also can cause infant choking.
June 04, 2016
See more In-depth
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- Nonfatal choking on food among children 14 years or younger in the United States, 2001-2009. Pediatrics. 2013;132:275.
- Duryea TK. Introducing solid foods and vitamin and mineral supplementation during infancy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 26, 2016.
- Choking: What to do for an infant. American Academy of Emergency Physicians. http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/Content.aspx?id=26146. Accessed April 26, 2016.
- Sharpe SJ, et al. Pediatric battery-related emergency department visits in the United States, 1990-2009. Pediatrics. 2012;129:1111.
- Nichols BG, et al. Pediatric exposure to choking hazards is associated with parental knowledge of choking hazards. International Journal of Otorhinolaryngology. 2012:76;169.