Preventing choking in young children

Young tamariki (children) can choke on food quite easily. Parents and caregivers should learn choking first aid and CPR.

Why tamariki choke easily

There are several reasons young tamariki choke easily including:

  • the small width of their air and food passages (similar to the width of their little finger) which can be easily blocked by small objects
  • their inexperience with moving food around in the mouth
  • their biting and chewing skills not being fully developed
  • a less effective ‘cough mechanism’, which makes it harder to cough out things that get stuck in their throat.

Preventing choking

If you are caring for young tamariki, the most important things you can do to prevent choking are to:

  • supervise them while they are eating
  • teach them not to play or run around while eating
  • establish a routine where eating is a separate activity from an early age
  • be aware of foods which are more likely to cause choking, and reduce the risk of young tamariki choking on these foods.

Never resort to forcing your child to eat. If they often gag or choke on foods that are appropriate for your age, ask your healthcare provider for a feeding assessment.

Choking first aid and CPR

Although all care can be taken to prevent food-related choking accidents, they may still occur. As young tamariki are so vulnerable to accidental injuries, it is recommended that people caring for children learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and choking first aid for children.

You will also find information on choking first aid and CPR in your Well Child Tamariki Ora My Health Book, or on the HealthEd website.

My Health Book — HealthEd website (external link).