BLOG: Tips to keep your child safe from choking (after mine nearly did)

COLORADO, USA — A child will die from choking every five days in the U.S. 

Kids younger than age 5 are at highest risk because their molars do not come in until 3 years old, and they are learning to chew their food. 

As an emergency room doctor and mom, I thought I had it all figured out. 

But my 2-year old daughter Madeline always finds a way to test everything I think I know.

Madeline had found a Kind bar, with dark chocolate and some nuts that her big brother was eating. She asked to have a few bites of what was left. 

Even though I knew the hazards, I said yes, as long as I could watch her eat it and she would sit down to eat. She was eating when I heard her start to cough and gag. I ran over to her. 

Choking child


She said her neck hurt but was able to talk and tell me it was hard to swallow. I did some back blows and a few abdominal thrusts to try to see if I could dislodge what was in her throat. She coughed, but never spit anything back up.

Right after that, I gave her a few sips of water, and she went back to playing. 

She started to have a “croupy,” a barking cough every few minutes. I kept asking her, “Can you breathe? Are you ok?”

She said she was fine, but I trusted my “mommy instincts” and my ER training and thought, “We should at least get her checked out, and get an x-ray.”

In the ER, she continued to have her cough. Her vital signs were totally normal, including her blood oxygen levels and breathing rate. Her x-ray showed air trapping, which can indicate a blockage in the lungs causing the air space to look dark on the x-ray.

Choking child


A few hours later, we were transferred over to The Children’s Hospital of Colorado, where the team acted quickly to take her to the operating room.

They removed a full-sized peanut from her right lung. Fortunately, I had been there with her when she was eating to hear her choke. 

Choking child


We got her to the hospital quickly and had it removed. 

Most importantly, I used this as an opportunity to reset and look at my own home again to see what can be a choking hazard for my daughter.

Common foods that can be a choking hazard

  • Hot dogs
  • Grapes
  • Raw vegetables and fruits
  • Nuts and seeds (including granola bars with nuts)
  • Raisins
  • Sticky foods like marshmallows, fruit snacks, gummy bears

Tips to keep your kids safe

  • Supervise your children while they are eating.
  • Cut food into small pieces (D-size battery or less).
  • Never let your children walk or talk while eating.
  • Know CPR and choking relief for children and infants.
  • Trust your gut. Choking can happen at any time or anywhere. If your child is not acting right, seek immediate help and get to an ER immediately.

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Have a medical question or health topic idea?Email Dr. Comilla at

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(Excerpt) Read more Here | 2019-04-15 20:47:00
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