A child dies every 5 days in the United States from choking on food. And food is just one of the many seemingly innocent objects that can quickly prove deadly for small children.
As a daycare provider, you have the critical responsibility of keeping the children in your care safe. Keep reading for our guide to preventing choking hazards at daycares to help you educate your employees and volunteers on how to keep kids safe.
What is a Choking Hazard?
A choking hazard is any object that can get caught in a child's throat and block their airway.
This makes it difficult, if not impossible for them to breathe and can be life-threatening. A number of different edible and inedible objects can be choking hazards, even if they seem innocent at first. Knowing what objects might be dangerous for young children is the first step in preventing choking incidents and promoting child safety.
If a child chokes in your care and you don't respond quickly enough, the results could be fatal. An obstructed airway blocking oxygen from reaching the brain can cause damage in just a matter of minutes.
Foods That Can Be Choking Hazards
When many people think of choking hazards, they think of inedible objects that children might put in their mouths. The truth is that some of the most dangerous and common choking hazards are actually foods that might at first seem safe for kids.
Foods that are likely to become potential choking hazards include foods that are round and hard. Young children don't always chew their food thoroughly before swallowing. This can cause foods to become lodged in their windpipe, leading to choking.
The following is a list of foods that can be dangerous for these young children:
- Hard, sticky, and gooey candy
- Hot dogs
- Chewing gum
- Nuts and seeds
- Chunks of cheese and meat
- Chunks of peanut butter
- Raw vegetables
- Whole grapes
If children in your care are eating these foods, you need to take extra safety precautions. It might be wise to err on the side of caution and avoid feeding these foods to young children at your facility.
Feeding Kids Safely at Daycare
If children are eating meals or snacks while at your daycare, there are some important safety rules to follow that can help prevent choking incidents.
One of the most important things is to always supervise children when eating. Your staff ratio should be sufficient for every child to be observed while eating.
For small children, food should be cut into little pieces, no bigger than 1/2 inch. When pieces are this small, they will clear the child's throat even if swallowed whole.
If you transport kids, never feed them while in a vehicle.
Finally, don't allow them to walk around while eating. Children should be seated in an upright position and focused on the task at hand while eating. This will also help you keep a close eye on them.
Other Choking Hazards for Small Children
While foods are a common choking hazard because they are meant to be ingested, small children often can't tell the difference between food and other objects. This leads them to put all kinds of things in their mouths.
When small children begin to crawl, they have access to items that you might not suspect are dangerous. The following is a list of objects that can present a choking hazard for small children:
- Small balls
- Button batteries
- Toys with small parts
- Pen and marker caps
- Toys that can fit into their mouths
- Latex balloons
- Medication syringes
- Hair barrettes
Kids love balloons. But latex balloons are actually one of the most dangerous items for young children and a leading cause of choking deaths.
Children ages 8 and under should not be allowed to play with latex balloons at your facility. It's too easy for kids to inhale the balloons while inflating them or choke on broken pieces.
Latex has a tendency to conform to the throat, causing a blockage. Attempting to remove the balloon with your fingers or performing the Heimlich Maneuver can actually make the blockage worse.
If you need to have balloons on your premises, opt for a safer material, like foil.
How to Help Safe Proof Your Daycare
As a daycare owner, you have a legal responsibility to maintain safe premises for your guests. When you open a daycare business, your level of responsibility increases. You have to ensure your premises are safe for small children and their unique needs.
Your staff should be trained in child monitoring and child safety. Toys for younger children should be kept separate from those for older children and both should be stored safely. Keep floors clear of items that could present a choking hazard for crawling children.
Always read age limit instructions for toys on your premises. Consider purchasing a small parts tester, also called a choke tube. This device can help you determine which toys and objects are safe for young children.
Keep an eye out for toy recalls.
Your staff should be trained in CPR and know what to do if a child chokes at your daycare.
The Importance of Accident and Health Insurance for Daycares
Prevention is worth more than a cure when it comes to a child choking while in your care. But even if you do everything you can, accidents still happen. And if you do everything you can to help prevent choking accidents, your liability insurance might not be enough for your clients.
All daycares should have an accident and health insurance policy in place that covers their specific operation in addition to a liability policy. This type of supplemental insurance policy helps ensure families are compensated if a choking incident does occur.
When families are compensated for their out-of-pocket expenses, they don't need to hire a lawyer or file a liability claim or lawsuit. This can help keep your insurance costs down and your clients happy.
Contact us today to learn more about purchasing accident and health insurance for your daycare.