Suffocation & Choking

Suffocation (not getting enough air to breathe) is the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children under the age of one, and it is the third leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children ages one through four years. Please scroll down for information on ACCIDENTAL SUFFOCATION and CHOKING.


Accidental suffocation is, by far, the leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of one.

  • Remove stuffed animals, bumpers, blankets, and all other accessories from your child’s crib
  • Make sure your mattress is firm and fits snugly. If you can fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib side, the crib is unsafe.
  • Make sure the mattress is covered with a tight-fitting crib sheet
  • If you can stick a soda can between the slats on a crib, the crib is unsafe. A child’s head, hand, or foot, could get stuck
  • Do not use a crib with drop-side rails
  • Do not place your crib near windows, draperies, or blinds.
  • Do not sleep in the same bed as your baby
  • Always lay your baby on their back to sleep

Learn Infant CPR. CPR will greatly enhance a child’s chances of survival in the event of an accident or other life-threatening situation.


Choking occurs when a foreign object, such as food, buttons, coins, or toy parts, are inhaled and partially or completely block the airway, preventing adequate breathing.  The following are tips on how to prevent, recognize and respond to choking.


  • All kids are at risk for choking, but those younger than 3 are especially vulnerable. Young children tend to put things in their mouths, have smaller airways that are easily blocked, and don’t have a lot of experience chewing so often swallow things whole.
  • Avoid foods that pose choking risks:
    • hot dogs
    • grapes
    • raw carrots
    • nuts
    • raisins
    • fruit that has pits or seeds
    • hard or gummy candy
    • spoonfuls of peanut butter
    • chunks of meat or cheese
    •  popcorn
  • At mealtime, be sure to serve a child’s food in small, manageable bites. You should always cut whole grapes into quarters, cut hot dogs lengthwise and into pieces (and remove the tough skin), and cook vegetables rather than serving them raw. Make sure children are seated any time they are eating and do not allow them to talk or laugh with food in their mouths.
  • Always supervise children when they are eating and playing.
  • Pick up anything off the floor that might be dangerous to swallow, like deflated balloons, pen caps, coins, beads, and batteries. Keep toys or gadgets with small parts out of reach. Get down on the floor often to check for objects that kids who are learning to walk or crawl could put in their mouths and choke on.
  • Does your child’s toy easily pass though an empty cardboard toilet paper tube? If so, the item is too small. Any object smaller than a golf ball can potentially enter the mouth and block a young child’s airway. Make sure to choose safe, age-appropriate toys and always follow the manufacturer’s age recommendations as some toys have small parts that can cause choking.


A person may be choking and need help right away if he or she:

  • is unable to breathe
  • is gasping or wheezing
  • can’t talk, cry, or make noise
  • turns blue
  • grabs at his or her throat or waves arms
  • appears panicked
  • becomes limp or unconscious


First, determine whether action is needed at all!  In many cases, the individual actively coughs and is able to expel the object with no assistance or medical attention. If someone is gagging and coughing but can breathe and talk, the airway is not completely blocked, and it’s best to do nothing but encourage them to continue coughing to clear the object.

Sometimes, an object can completely block the airway. If airflow into and out of the lungs is blocked and the brain is deprived of oxygen, choking can become a life-threatening emergency. In this case, do not reach into their mouth to try and grab the object!  This can push the object further down the airway and make the situation worse. Click on the links below for short videos on how to properly respond to  choking in different age groups.