I thought I knew. After all, that has been my husband’s catchphrase for more than two decades now.
“Don’t let the baby get hold of that,” he warns with predictable frequency, “it’s the number one choking hazard.”
I’ve always accepted this statement without question, assuming Doug was citing some statistic he’d learned back in medical school. However, one of my children recently brought to my attention the fact that their father has conferred this top honor upon a wide and varied array of household items over the years: hot dogs, marbles, grapes, gum, balloons, buttons, quarters, peanuts, and anything made out of Play-doh or Crayola Magic modeling compound.
Essentially, the #1 choking hazard at our house is whatever small, forgotten trinket or crusty crumb the baby is currently intent on dragging out from under the sofa cushion or scavenging off the kitchen floor. Just yesterday, I had to pry from her grubby fingers a stale goldfish cracker, a shard of plastic from a broken CD case, the head of a lego mini-figure, and a square-inch scrap of cellophane wrap — all in a span of about three minutes.
So, what is the most common choking culprit? The question begs an answer, so I Googled “#1 choking hazard” to satisfy my curiosity. The answer? “FOOD!” Can you imagine that?
A 2008 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics was a little more helpful. It listed the top-ten offenders:
- Hot dogs
- Boned chicken
- Fish with bones
- Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds? Really?
Conspicuously absent from this list are any of the items our own children actually have choked on during their short lives, and I mean fully-obstructed, turning-blue, Heimlich-remediated choking. Had anyone warned us of the dangerous potential of these items , we’d have been much more careful. So as a public service announcement, I want to advise my readers to exercise extreme caution when offering their children donut holes. Or fried mozzarella. Or tiny toy helicopters with detachable propellers. After all, that’s the #1 choking hazard. At our house. For now.