Christmas is here with all the decorating, gift-giving, and great food!  We hope this season is wonderful for you and your family.  Most of all we hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy.  Importantly, there are unique risks that accompany Christmas celebrations.  In this blog, we identify common food items, toys, and decorations that are choking risks for children.

Common Choking Hazards

1. Children’s Toys

A highly anticipated part of most families’ Christmas celebrations is gifts under the Christmas tree. Unfortunately, some of Santa’s gifts may pose a choking hazard for young children. When your children make their Christmas lists, be sure to check them twice for the following:

  • Small toys or pieces that can be swallowed
  • Small pieces of toys that can be detached
  • The recommended age for safe use of the toy

Legos, Hot Wheels, and marbles may be great gifts for children, but they also present a high risk of choking – if the toy isn’t age-appropriate. Double-check your children’s gifts to ensure that they stay safe this holiday season because sometimes even Santa makes mistakes!

Additionally, consider other children in the home.  A toy that is age-appropriate for an older child will easily find its way into the hands of younger children, and toys in the hands of younger children usually make it into their mouths.

2. Christmas Decorations

Decorating can be a real treat during the holidays, but those with children should be wary of certain items.  While toys are usually evaluated for choking hazards and are marked for age-appropriateness, decorations are not.  Therefore, be thoughtful about the following:

  • Christmas ornaments – Although ornaments make a Christmas tree beautiful, they can also present a choking hazard due to their brittle nature or size. A child can easily pluck a bauble from the tree, put it in their mouth, take a bite, and choke on the shards in an instant. If the ornament is small enough, they might even swallow it whole. Keep your smaller ornaments to the top of the tree to reduce the risk of your little ones choking.
  • Tinsel – Using tinsel can really liven up your Christmas decorations, but can also pose a choking risk. The small clusters of tinsel can easily be swallowed by young children.  You may want to avoid tinsel for a few years, or use versions and techniques that reduce the risk of it being plucked from the tree.

Additionally, the thin strands of tinsel can become wrapped around babies’ fingers or wrists and can restrict blood flow.  It’s best to keep infants and toddlers away from tinsel altogether.

  • Other miscellaneous decorations – Ensure any other decorations you use throughout your home don’t pose a choking risk. This would include any item that is easily in reach of a small child and can be put in their mouth. These decorations may include a porcelain Christmas village set, spare lightbulbs for light strands or the strands themselves, or even the chocolates in your Advent calendar. 

3. Holiday meals

If your family prepares a Christmas meal or other treats, take some time to ensure small children don’t have access to foods that present a choking hazard. Here are some food items to watch out for:

  • Popcorn
  • Lollipops
  • Small candies
  • Peanuts
  • Raw carrots or broccoli
  • Small cookies

4. Batteries and magnets

It seems all toys these days are electronic or mechanical in some way.  While fun, these can present particularly concerning hazards if ingested.  Button (watch) style batteries and small magnets, if swallowed, can cause serious injury to the internal organs and might even require endoscopy or surgery to remove.  Small batteries and magnetic objects should never be left in a location where small children can reach them.

Visiting CapRock Health for Help With Choking

The first step to help in choking is following the steps above to prevent it in the first place. However, if your child is choking, call 911 immediately and attempt to dislodge the object by performing choking first aid. Have questions or concerns about the choking event? Give us a call, and we’ll be happy to assist you.