Mum reveals ‘lesser-known’ choking hazard all parents need to know

paramedic mum

Look out for rubber balloon leftovers (Picture: Instagram/tinyheartseducation)

A choking hazard many parents won’t consider is being flagged by a paramedic mum on TikTok.

Advanced life support paramedic and CEO of the Australian parenting organisation Tiny Hearts Education, Nikki Jurcutz, gets asked about choking by new parents more than anything else.

She explains that one dangerous hazard to look out for is leftover balloon rubber.

Nikki says: ‘I hosted a birthday party recently and I was cleaning up and found this part of a balloon… these are massive choking hazards and you need to be super careful around balloons.

‘As you can imagine trying to do back blows to get this up when it’s stuck would be near impossible. So be super vigilant.’ 

As a result, she has also shared some simple tips to get on top of choking.

Other items to be mindful of to avoid choking:

As well as balloons, other small items children can choke on include:

  • Toys with small parts and doll accessories
  • Coins
  • Safety pins
  • Paperclips
  • Push pins
  • Marbles and small balls
  • Nails, bolts, and screws
  • Erasers
  • Batteries
  • Broken crayons
  • Jewellery
  • Small magnets
  • Small caps for bottles, including chocolate syrup, pancake syrup, and soda (kids may try to lick the sweet drops out of the caps, which can get stuck in the airway).

The ‘squish test’

This helps with figuring out which finger food is safe.

Simply ‘pinch the food between your pointer fingers and thumb’.

‘This mimics the pressure of a toothless little one’s gums,’ Nikki says.

‘If the food squishes easily, it means it’s safe and bub will be able to chew. 

‘If it doesn’t squish easily, you should cook, grate or mash it, so that it becomes soft enough to pass the test.’

The ‘choke check hack’

Make a hole with your index finger and thumb then try to drop items through it.

You can try with things like a cherry, popcorn, a grape, and small toys. 

‘This is how I check to see if food or small items may potentially be a choking hazard for my bubs,’ Nikki explains.

‘The circle is approximately the size of a child’s airway aged 0-3. If anything can fit in this hole, then it’s a choking hazard.’

The ‘consistency test’

Nikki says there are three food types to be wary of: round, slippery and firm items. 

When something fits in these categories, you can grate or cut the food into quarters.

‘Think grapes, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, nuts, raw carrot, apple, popcorn, chewing gum, coins, marbles and batteries,’ she says.

‘The greater the roundness, firmness or slipperiness of an object, the greater the choking risk.’ 

For example, you might cut grapes into quarters and roll slippery foods like avocado in fine breadcrumbs.  

Also, always make sure your child is seated safely and securely in a highchair within arm’s reach at all times while eating.

Other tips to avoid choking:

  • Keep distractions to a minimum so they can concentrate on eating – e.g no TV watching.
  • Always have a drink within their reach.
  • Encourage kids to sit when eating and to chew thoroughly.
  • Teach kids to chew and swallow their food before talking or laughing.
  • Supervise older children, who might not know they shouldn’t give some foods to younger kids.

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