Pediatric Choking Information

As SLPs who work with many children who have feeding difficulties, we are very interested in information offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics on the subject.  Recently, they updated their policy statement on choking and introduced some new information about choking.  Here are some highlights from the American Academy of Pediatric's newest information and guidelines:


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  • From 2001 - 2009, approximately 112,000 children were seen in emergency rooms across the country as a result of food-related choking incidents.  The main culprit was hard candy (15% of cases).
  • Although hot dogs are traditionally thought to be a high choking hazard, they did not appear on the list of choking incidents requiring medical attention.  However, other types of meats were causes of choking.
  • The type of food choked on was directly related to the age of the child; infants are more likely to choke on formula, fruits and vegetables, and baby biscuits, while toddlers are more likely to choke on fruits, nuts, and candy.
  • In the year 2000, 160 children under the age of 14 died from choking causes.  41% of these cases were related to choking on food items, while 59% were caused by non-food related items.


  • Toddlers:  back teeth are not yet fully developed, and therefore, children age 1-2 have more difficulty completely grinding food to a consistency that is safe to swallow.  Children this age should not be fed foods that cannot be bitten into small pieces using the front teeth.
  • Preschoolers:  children age 2-4 have the capability to grind food using back molars, but may not yet have the knowledge required to do so.  With this in mind, it is important to teach children how to grind up food using their back teeth.  Additionally, children this age should always be fed in an upright, seated position with adult supervision.  If gum is offered to children at this age, it should always be safely removed by an adult before the child is allowed to get up from the table.
  • Older children:  children age 5 and older now have the anatomy and the knowledge required to safely consume most types of food.  However, it is still important to make sure the child is sitting at a table when eating, is not distracted during mealtimes, and is under close supervision when consuming foods that are more difficult to handle (e.g., peanut butter, tough meats, hard candy).

Eating should be a fun and social event!  We hope this information helps you share mealtimes with your child in a safe, enjoyable manner.

Thanks for reading!  For more information on feeding and how we can help, visit the "Resources" section of our website at