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Safety Center > Safety Tips > First Aid Basics

Causes and Signals of Choking

Did you know that more than 3,000 people die each year as a result of choking?  Would you be able to recognize if a family member or friend started to choke?  Do you know what activities might lead to choking?  Here are some common causes of choking:

  • Trying to swallow large pieces of poorly chewed food.
  • Drinking alcohol before or during meals.  Alcohol dulls the nerves that aid in swallowing.
  • Wearing dentures.  Dentures make it difficult to sense whether food is fully chewed before it is swallowed.
  • Eating while talking excitedly or laughing.
  • Eating too fast.
  • Walking, playing, or running with food or objects in the mouth.

These are just some of the causes of choking.  If you want to learn more about the signals of choking or the care needed to give to a person who is choking, take an American Red Cross CPR and First Aid Course.

Follow these safety precautions to help prevent children from choking:

  • Don't leave small objects, such as buttons, coins and beads within an infant's reach.
  • Have children sit in a high chair or at a table while they eat.
  • Do not let children eat too fast.
  • Give infants soft food that they do not need to chew.
  • Make sure that toys are too large to be swallowed.
  • Do not give infants and young children foods like nuts, grapes, popcorn or raw vegetables.
  • Make sure that toys have no small parts that could be pulled off.
  • Cut foods a child can choke on easily, such as hot dogs, into small pieces.
  • Supervise children while they eat.

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