While the danger of swallowing small objects certainly exists for young kids, food-—from hot dogs and candies to certain fruits and raw vegetables—is one of the biggest choking risks for kids.

When Foods are Choking Hazards
People of all ages can be at risk for choking on food, but children under the age of 5 are especially susceptible. This is because they have smaller teeth and molars that don't allow them to chew food as thoroughly as older kids. This means they're more likely to swallow it whole, or in big pieces that can be hard to handle. Small children, especially those under the age of 3, also have narrow airways that make it easier for foods and other choking hazards to become stuck on the way down.

Top 10 Food Choking Hazards

  1. Hot dogs: The roundness of a hot dog makes it easy to get stuck in a child's throat. It's also very moldable, so it can adapt to the shape of the passage, making it especially difficult to dislodge. To minimize the danger, slice a hot dog in half and then further cut into small pieces.
  2. Nuts: The size and shape of all types of nuts and seeds make them difficult to chew with baby teeth, so they may slide down whole, where they can easily become lodged in your child's throat.
  3. Grapes and Raisins: The problem with these fruits is their small size and shape, making them easy to eat without chewing. However, they may not make it through the narrowest part of your child's throat. Slice grapes in half for your little ones and hold off serving raisins until your child goes to school.
  4. Carrots: Carrots are certainly nutritious but they also come with a very big choking risk. Because of their hard and dry texture and shape, they can be difficult to chew and can easily become stuck in your child's throat. To avoid the problem, serve carrots in narrow strips that are easier to chew and swallow.
  5. Popcorn: Popcorn is a popular offering at movies, parties, and special events. Yet the size, shape, and texture make it easy to choke on. Unpopped kernels in the bag also increase the choking risk. That's why this food is better saved for older kids and served under supervision.
  6. Hard candy: Hard candy is a particular danger for kids of all ages.  The size and slippery shape make it easy to slide down your child's throat and get stuck there. Since candy isn't good for your child's health or teeth, this item should be avoided from her diet completely.
  7. Gum: This is another treat that doesn't bring any value to your child's diet. It's also easy for children to lose control of the gum and have it slide down the throat and become stuck. Gummy treats, fruit roll ups, and caramels can be equally dangerous. That's why many pediatricians recommend steering clear of such items entirely.  
  8. Bagels: Hard foods like bagels can also be choking hazards. That's because these can be difficult for small teeth to chew and that fact may prompt your child to swallow them in large chunks that can easily get stuck.
  9. Apples: You know the saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." But you may not know that their dry skin and hard texture can easily get caught in a small throat. Cut apples into small slices. You can also mash, cook, or grate the apples to make them easy to swallow.
  10. Cheese cubes: When you cut cheese into cubes, it may be easy for your child to hold and eat, but it also puts her at increased risk for these soft squares to get stuck in her throat. Shred cheese or dice it into tiny bits instead.

Minimize the Choking Hazard Risk

Regardless of your child's age, the best way to lessen the risk of edible choking hazards is to always insist she eats while sitting at a table surface, not moving around. Serve small portions of items, and for toddlers and preschoolers, be sure to cut food into portions smaller than half an inch. Encourage your child to take small bites and chew and swallow before taking more food or trying to talk. Also resist the convenience of serving your child food in the car, where you may not be able to respond immediately in an emergency.

Finally, remember that while young children are particularly vulnerable to choking hazards, even older children and adults can be at risk and should exercise safe eating practices.

Consumer Reports


Kids Health/Nemours Foundation