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Preventing choking and strangulation

 Click here to download a printable version of the information from this page. 

Every year in Canada, babies and children die from choking. Almost all of these deaths can be prevented.

What’s the rush? Is your child really ready for certain foods?

Babies and young children most often choke on food. Think about your child’s age and how well he can chew before deciding what foods to give. Some things to remember:

  • Keep mealtimes calm and relaxed. Everyone should have lots of time to eat.
  • Be close by to watch your child during meals and snacks.
  • Sit your child down to eat, every time. If your child gets up, take the food away. Children should not run around with food in her mouth.
  • Cut all food into small pieces or use a grater (especially for meat and hard, crunchy foods)
  • Teach children to chew carefully before swallowing.
  • Don’t allow children to tip their chairs backward when eating.
  • Don’t give nuts or seeds to children until they are at least 5 years old.
  • Cut hotdogs and grapes lengthwise and in small pieces until your child is at • least 5 years old.
  • Do not give your child gum, hard or chewy candies until he is at least 5 years old.

Children often choke on:

  • uncut hotdog and grapes
  • Hard candies
  • Raw carrots
  • Nuts, seeds
  • Unpopped popcorn
  • Dried beans and peas
  • Gum
  • Coins
  • Disc batteries
  • Marbles
  • Toys with small parts
  • Latex balloons
  • Small balls
  • Pen or marker caps
  • The top corner of plastic milk bags

Plan ahead.

Children grow fast, make sure you're ready for what they can get into.

Babies and young children like to put things in their mouths. Think about the things in your house that your child could choke on, and plan how you’ll keep them away from your child. To start, you can:

  • Keep coins and small items off the floor and out of your child’s reach
  • Teach your child never to put non-food items in her mouth
  • Follow the age guidelines on toy packages, and check toys for small parts that could break off
  • Keep toys for older children away from babies and young children
  • Teach older children to never give young children small toys or foods they might choke on

Choking and strangulation-what’s the difference?

Choking happens when food or objects block the airways on the inside of the body.

Strangulation happens when something gets wrapped around the neck, and blocks air from getting to the lungs.

What’s the rush?

Is your child really ready to sleep in the top bunk?

  • Wait until your child is 6 before letting her sleep in the top bunk.

Strangulation is most often caused by:

  • Blind or curtain cords
  • Drawstrings from hoods
  • Scarves
  • Skipping ropes or other ropes on playground equipment
  • Children getting entrapped in furniture, like bunk beds

Plan ahead.

Children grow fast, make sure you’re ready for what they can reach, or clothing that can get caught.

  • Keep blind and curtain cords out of reach. Tie blind cords up so they are near the top of the window.
  • Cut blind cords short when the blinds are fully down
  • Remove long chains from the bottom of vertical blinds, or secure the chain to the floor with the proper ‘tie down’ hardware.
  • Keep cribs, beds, high chairs, playpens and furniture that children could climb on away from windows or patio doors. This prevents children from reaching blind or curtain cords.
  • Remove drawstrings from children’s clothing.
  • Use mitten clips or velcro instead of mittens attached by a cord.
  • Use neck warmers instead of a scarf, or make sure the scarf is tucked in.
  • Remove your child’s helmet before playing on playground equipment.


  • Place your child’s crib near a window
  • Tie a pacifier around your child’s neck
  • Allow your child to tie skipping ropes or strings to playground equipment

Learn how.

Learn how to give first aid to a choking child. Learn CPR (cardio-pulmonary recuscitation). Call your local St. John’s Ambulance or Red Cross to find out about classes.

Want more info?

Window Covering Safety Council Free safety kits (inner cord stops, tie down devices & information) 1-800-506-4636

Health Canada (Consumer Product Safety) Blind/Curtain Cord info

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