Some foods are dangerous for growing toddlers

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Last weekend some quick-thinking Chicago police officers helped save a 2-year-old girl who was choking on a piece of candy.

That sure is great news, but the story tells me it’s a good time to offer a reminder of the choking dangers some foods cause young children.

Part of the problem is that some very popular foods also are the most dangerous for young children, according to Dr. Laura Swibel Rosenthal, whose specialty is pediatric otolaryngology. Hot dogs, popcorn, nuts and grapes can all be very problematic.

Don’t be fooled at how good a toddler seems to be at gnawing on food. To really chew things adequately they need teeth, especially molars, says Swibel Rosenthal, who’s with Loyola University Medical Center.


Dr. Laura Swibel Rosenthal

Hot dogs are the number one food toddlers choke on, according to John Hopkin’s Children Center, which suggests they be minced or cut into thin pieces. (Avoid any food that come in or is cut into round discs, says Swibel Rosenthal.)

Grapes should be peeled and cut into quarters, Swibel Rosenthal suggests.

Children younger than 4 should not be given nuts or hard candy, according to John Hopkin’s Children Center. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends children be at least 4 before they are given popcorn.

If a child is not speaking or coughing when having trouble with food that’s a real problem because it means there is no air in the airwaves, says Swibel Rosenthal. But don’t try to remove the food; it could become further lodged. Instead, start thumping on the back of the child’s chest (put a hand on the front so they’ll be stable), says Swibel Rosenthal. She also says a parent could try to lean the child over a chair to push the stomach in and the problem food out.

If unsuccessful, call 911 and follow CPR guidelines.

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