Choking happens when a child's airway gets blocked. Anything smaller than a D-size battery can cause an airway blockage and be a choking risk for children.
Examples of choking risks include:
- food items like lollies, raw apples, pieces of meat (including chicken and fish), nuts, raw carrots, uncooked peas, seeds (including popcorn kernels), grapes, fruit pips and stones, hot dogs and sausages
- household items like coins, small batteries, small magnets, the tops off pens and markers, and jewellery
- toys and toy parts like plastic shapes, marbles, the eyes of stuffed toys, table tennis balls and balloons (uninflated or popped)
- garden objects like pebbles
- any other small items.
Do you know what to do for a choking child? Our choking first aid article and illustrated guide to choking first aid take you through the steps.
Tips for preventing choking
These tips can help you protect your child from choking:
- Sit while eating. Your child is more likely to choke if he eats while lying down, running around or playing, so sitting at a table or even on the floor will reduce the risk. If you sit with your child while he eats, and talk to or entertain him, he'll be less tempted to get up and run around.
- Encourage your child to chew food well. Teaching your child to chew and swallow properly, and to take her time during meals, will reduce her risk of choking.
- Keep food pieces small. Until your child can chew well, give her food in pieces smaller than a pea. Anything bigger than this is hard for little children to eat safely. This is because their airways are small, and they're still learning to chew and swallow properly.
- Cook, grate or mash hard foods, particularly hard fruit and vegetables like carrots and apples.
- Avoid whole nuts. Children can usually eat these safely at around five years of age, unless they have an allergy. Corn chips, lollies and grapes can also be choking risks.
- Try to keep small objects out of reach. Curiosity leads children to put unusual things into their mouths. Check the floor for small objects by getting down to child height and looking around.
- Use toys that are solid and sturdy, and avoid toys with small parts, breakable parts or brittle surfaces. Check toys for exposed stuffing and loose screws and buttons. Avoid buying toys with button batteries.
- Keep toys for small children and older siblings in separate boxes. Encourage older siblings to keep their little toys out of reach. This might include Lego, doll clothes, beads, car parts and so on.
Product Safety Australia's free, do-it-yourself Choke Check tool can help you identify toys and other objects that pose choking or ingestion hazards. You can also visit or subscribe to Product Safety Australia Recalls to keep an eye out for product recall information.
Children at higher risk of choking
Children with a disability or chronic illness might be at higher risk of choking than other children.
Children are more likely to choke if they have a disability like cerebral palsy, epilepsy, intellectual disability, chronic asthma or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. If your child has one of these conditions, talk to your doctor about how best to avoid choking.