When food or small objects get caught in a child’s throat and block the airway, choking can occur. When the airway is blocked, oxygen cannot get to the lungs and brain. Without oxygen, brain damage or death can occur. Young children are at high risk for choking. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, choking is the leading cause of death in young children, especially those under the age of three.

Fortunately, nannies can take steps to reduce the risk of choking for children in their care. When caring for infants, be sure that the child does not have access to toys or objects smaller than 1½ to 1¾ inches in diameter. The size of a young infant’s fist is a reliable guide to determine what can fit inside the child’s mouth and potentially cause choking.

Common choking hazards for young children include small toys, plastic bags, coins, deflated latex balloons (and even pieces of balloons), jewelry, personal care items, and inappropriate foods such as nuts, globs of peanut butter, gum, and candy. These foods should be reserved for children over the age of four. Vigilant supervision, especially during mealtimes, can reduce the risk of choking in children.

Additional foods to avoid feeding young children include dried fruits, raisins, popcorn, grapes, hotdogs, and chunks of cheese or meat. When feeding children food such as cheese sticks and grapes, nannies should cut the food lengthwise. Hot dogs are the number one cause of choking in children three and under. If a family insists on serving hot dogs, nannies should cut them lengthwise.