WellSpan Home

Health Library

Airway Obstruction—Identifying High-Risk Situations

Most incidences of accidental child strangulation, suffocation, and choking happen in the home. Parents should take extra care to childproof the house for young children. Keep in mind that the airways of young children are much smaller and easier to obstruct.


The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than 4 years old should not be fed any round, firm foods unless they are cut into small, nonround pieces. Young children may not chew food properly before swallowing. This increases the risk of swallowing the food whole and choking. Food to avoid or cut into small pieces for children under age 4 include the following:

  • Hot dogs

  • Nuts

  • Meat chunks

  • Grapes

  • Hard candy

  • Popcorn

  • Chunks of peanut butter

  • Raisins

  • Raw carrots

In addition, always supervise your young children when they are eating. Sometimes, choking can happen when an older child feeds his or her younger sibling unsafe food. Young children should also sit while eating, and never walk, play, or run with food in their mouths.

Special Note: Hot dogs and grapes can be eaten by young children as long as the skins are taken off and the food is cut into small, nonround pieces.

Other choking hazards

Nonfood items that are small, round, or conforming can be a choking hazard to young children. Examples include:

  • Coins

  • Small balls

  • Balloons (inflated and deflated)

  • Marbles

  • Small game parts

  • Small toy parts

  • Safety pins

  • Jewelry

  • Buttons

  • Pen caps

  • Small button-like batteries (for example, watch batteries)

Strangulation and suffocation hazards

These hazards include the following: 

  • Infants can suffocate in soft bedding, or when a person rolls over onto them in an adult bed.

  • Plastic bags that cover the nose and mouth of infants are another common cause of suffocation.

  • Children can also suffocate or otherwise injure themselves when they become trapped in household appliances, such as dryers, and toy chests.

  • Children can strangle themselves with consumer products that wrap around the neck, such as clothing drawstrings, ribbons, necklaces, pacifier strings, and window blind and drapery cords.

  • Small passages through which a child can fit body, but not the head, can strangle a child. This includes spaces in bunk beds, cribs, playground equipment, baby strollers, carriages, and high chairs.

Airway Obstruction—Identifying High-Risk Situations - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Adler, Liora C., MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Last Review Date: 2015-12-20T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2016-02-05T00:00:00
Posting Date: 2008-11-30T00:00:00
Published Date: 2016-02-05T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-03-30T00:00:00
© 2016 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.


Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.