Staying Safe this Holiday Season — Reducing the Risk of Choking in Children and Infants
Written by: Daniel Garas, Thomson Rogers, www.trlaw.com
With the holiday season upon us, it is an especially exciting time for families and children. Minds are often occupied with the thoughts of Christmas trees, spending time with family, delicious food, beautiful lights, and more delicious food. But it is important to think about choking hazards present in your home, including the toys that Santa brings.
Choking can be defined as a disruption in normal breathing pattern from an internal obstruction of the airway which is typically caused by the ingestion of food or other small objects. Not many know that choking incidents account for one of the most common causes of accidental death in children and infants, in Canada. In fact, choking and suffocation account for 40% of accidental injuries in children under one year of age in the country.
If you are planning on gifting a little one in your life a new toy this holiday season, there are a few things you should consider. Small objects such as marbles, balls, or larger items with smaller removable pieces (such as wheels or buttons) should be avoided. Small items can easily get lodged in the child’s throat and obstruct their breathing.
In addition, some toys are charged using “lithium coin” batteries, also known as “button” batteries/cells. These batteries are small and round and can easily be swallowed if somehow removed from a toy. Not only can batteries become lodged in a child’s throat, but they can also pose a dangerous risk of internal injury.
If you’ve ever taken your child to their grandparents’ house, you’ve probably noticed the popularity of hand-me-down toys. Parents should check these toys carefully to ensure that the toy is still intact and that no wear and tear has lead to smaller pieces ripping off/detaching from the toy.
For most of us, food is an important part of our holiday celebrations. But the increased introduction of food to curious little children and infants may put them at increased risk of a choking incident.
For example, grapes — which are often served on charcuterie boards or in fruit platters — are one of the most common causes of choking in children under the age of four. To reduce the risk of choking, it is recommended that grapes be sliced length-wise. Sausages and hot dogs should also be similarly sliced and carrots and apples should be chopped and/or grated. Other food items that may pose a risk include hard candies and nuts.
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
Parents should inspect any toys given to their children to reduce the risk of unintentional choking incidents. For example, new toys should be tested to ensure that they can withstand chewing from an infant, and toys with batteries should be completely sealed. Always be cognizant of the age warning labels on toys and do not give your child a toy that is not age appropriate. Also, you making sure that the toys are free from any strings or loose ends that can float into the back of a child’s throat is highly recommended. Finally, you may want to avoid a toy that contains smaller pieces that can be broken off or removed easily to reduce the likelihood of an accident from occurring.
During the holidays, parents should also avoid getting too excited in letting their child try new foods and should always ensure that any foods that are round and/or too big or tough are sliced appropriately. When unsure of whether to avoid and/or how to prepare certain foods, parents can look to reputable sources such as the Canadian Paediatric Society for guidance. It also never hurts to monitor your infant/young child, as they eat their food, especially if it is something they are having for the first time.
Making sure that our kids are safe during this holiday season is a sure way to guarantee a joyous holiday season! If you know of a child who has been injured as a result of a choking incident, our lawyers can help. For more information, please see our firm profile:
About the Author: Daniel Garas | Thomson Rogers
As a survivor of childhood Leukemia, Daniel has developed a passion to help those experiencing life-altering conditions, inspiring him to become a personal injury lawyer at Thomson Rogers.
Daniel joined Thomson Rogers as an Articling Student after graduating from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. Before law school, Daniel received his Bachelor of Kinesiology from McMaster University, graduating Summa Cum Laude. During his time at McMaster University, he worked as a physiotherapist assistant at a busy physiotherapy clinic, where he assisted in the treatment and recovery of a wide variety of injuries. His background in Kinesiology and experience at the clinic is a unique asset for helping accident victims.
While in law school, Daniel volunteered with Pro Bono Students Canada on the Family Reunification Project, which was focused on the sponsorship of family members by refugee claimants.
Outside of work, Daniel enjoys all things basketball (go Raptors!), singing, and spending time with his wife and baby boy.
Source: Claude Cyr, Preventing Choking and Suffocation in Children (February 2012; reaffirmed January 2020) Canadian Paediatric Society