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 easily 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, small parts from toys and certain types of behavior during eating — such as eating while distracted — also can cause infant choking.

Jun. 06, 2013 See more In-depth