Holiday Safety: Small Toy Choking Hazards

As a parent, one of the most exciting times of year is the holiday season. After months of planning and Teething Baby Chewing on Toyresearching for gifts, nothing compares to seeing your child filled with joy and excitement when they finally get to open their presents on Christmas morning. However, for certain children, there might be a hidden danger lurking in some toys. 

“Choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death in children under the age of 5,” said Bill Turton, RN, BSN, director of emergency services for Firelands. “During the holiday season, it is extremely important to look closely at the packaging of toys to make sure that they are age-appropriate for your child.”

Keep these tips in mind when selecting toys for your child:

1. Don't let children under the age of 3 play with small toys and parts

Children 3 years of age and younger are still exploring the world, and their mouth is a frequently used sensor. Small toys and toys with small parts can quickly and easily make their way into your child's mouth, nose, or even ear canal. 

“Be cautious about toys containing buttons, batteries, or magnets, which can be a choking hazard,” said Turton. “It can take only a matter of seconds for a child to remove something off a toy and ingest it.”

If you are unsure about a toy being too small for your child, consider purchasing a "Small-Object Choking Tester." This tube-like tool is about the same diameter as a child's windpipe and allows you to test the safety of small toys, toy parts, or other small objects. If an object fits entirely inside the Choking Tester, then it's a choking hazard to your child.

2. Always follow all manufacturers' age recommendations when buying toys

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission encourages manufacturers to have accurate age labeling on Choking Hazard WarningAlways check the package for warnings and age guidelines.
product packaging. KidsHealth from Nemours recommends that parents consider their child's temperament, habits, and behavior when buying a new toy. Even a child who seems more advanced for their age shouldn't use toys meant for older kids. The age levels for toys are determined by safety factors, not the child’s intelligence or maturity.

This holiday season, try to make it a habit to check the label before purchasing toys for your child.

3. Never buy vending machine toys for small children

These strategically placed machines always seem to catch a child’s eye. However, many of the fun little toys inside lack one very important thing; safety regulations! 

4. Check toys often for loose or broken parts

As children grow, their interests are constantly changing. Hand-me-down toys are a great way to save some money. However, make sure you thoroughly check all toys for loose or broken parts. 

“Don’t forget to examine toys for older brothers and sisters,” said Turton. “If older siblings have toys that could potentially be a choking hazard, make sure that they are kept out of reach from younger children in the household.”

5. Avoid decorating with or allowing your child to play with latex balloons

Children are always fascinated by the vibrant floating colors, and while the floating object may seem innocent, it could very quickly become dangerous if deflated. Latex balloons are a leading cause of choking deaths in children 8 years of age or younger. Children can inhale latex balloons and choke on the pieces. Latex is dangerous because it is a smooth material and can conform to the child’s throat. The material then blocks the airway, making it impossible to breathe.

“If you find a child choking, unable to move any air, and the child is over 1 year of age, immediately dial 911,” said Turton. “Then follow the American Heart Association’s steps for foreign-body airway obstruction.”

Foreign-body airway obstruction (FBAO)

  1. Stand or kneel behind the child. 
  2. Wrap your arms around the child’s waist.
  3. Make a fist with one hand. Place the thumb side of your first against the child’s abdomen, in the midline, slightly above the navel and well below the breastbone.
  4. Grasp your fist with your other hand press your fist into the child’s abdomen with quick, forceful upward thrusts.
  5. Repeat thrusts until the object is expelled from the airway or the child becomes unresponsive. Do CPR.
  6. Give each new thrust with a separate, distinct movement to relieve the obstruction.