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Food choking risks for babies and children

Babies and children have a natural tendency to put things in their mouths. These include food and non-food items, such as small toys and household items. This can easily cause choking.

Watch your child eating

Food is the most likely thing that a child will choke on.

Make sure the food you give your child is suitable to their age and developmental stage.

Never leave your child alone while they are eating in case they choke. Always supervise meals and snacks. 

Your child should:

  • eat sitting in a high chair or at a table with an adult supervising
  • never eat while walking or running - there is a risk they could choke
  • never eat in bed

Different foods have different risks. Keep foods that your child could choke on out of their sight and reach.

Watch that older children do not share unsuitable food with younger children.

Be aware that children can put too much food in their mouth at any one time, even if it's cut up small.

Food-choking-risks
Foods your child could choke on

Foods to never give your child

Never give a child under the age of 5:

  • nuts (including peanuts)
  • marshmallows
  • popcorn
  • chewing gum
  • boiled and hard sweets

These can choke your child.

Foods you need to prepare safely

When your baby starts weaning onto solid food, make sure it is:

  • suitable for their age and developmental stage
  • cut up small enough
  • soft enough for them to eat

Always cut up food to a size that your child can chew and eat safely. To make food safer, change the texture – grate, cook, finely chop or mash it.

Remove the parts of food that could choke your child – peel off the skin or remove any strong fibres, seeds, pips or stones.

Food needs to be prepared safely before you give it to your child.

Related topic

Weaning your baby

Small fruit and vegetables

Grapes, cherry tomatoes and other similar-sized food can choke your child.

Grapes are a particular risk to children. Cut them in half and then quarters lengthways or smaller. Remove all seeds or pips.

Cut cherry tomatoes and other similar-sized food in the same way. If they have seeds, stones or strong fibres, remove them.

If you don't, it could block your child's airway.

Hard fruit and vegetables

These include carrots, celery and apples. You can reduce the risk of your child choking if you change the texture of the food. Grate, cook, finely chop or mash it.

Food with skins or leaves

Food skins are difficult to chew and can completely seal children’s airways. They include:

  • sausages, hot dogs and frankfurters
  • apples and pears
  • tomatoes
  • lettuce and other raw salad leaves
  • spinach and cabbage

Remove or peel skins and cut lengthways into small pieces no bigger than your child’s small fingernail.

Finely chop salad leaves. Cook spinach and cabbage until soft and chop finely.

Fruit with stones

Remove or peel skins and cut lengthways into small pieces no bigger than your child’s small fingernail.

Thick pastes and spreads

Thick pastes like peanut butters and chocolate spreads can stick to your child’s throat and windpipe (airway). This makes breathing difficult. Spread pastes thinly and evenly.

Nuts and seeds

Do not give whole nuts to children under the age of 5 because they may choke. Nuts and seeds should be crushed or ground. Spread nut butter spreads evenly and not too thickly.

Bottle-feeding

Always hold a baby in your arms and the bottle in your hand if bottle-feeding them.

Do not prop up or lean the bottle against a support like a cushion. This can cause choking and other health problems.

If feeding in bed, always remember to return the baby to their own cot for sleep.

Related Content

Page last reviewed: 17/05/2019
Next review due: 17/05/2022