Breathing emergencies, such as suffocation, strangulation, choking and entrapment are a leading cause of injury-related death to Canadian children. Children who survive may suffer brain damage because they have been deprived of oxygen for a period of time. Major threats to breathing for young children include choking on food and small objects, strangulation by items such as ropes or blind cords, and suffocating in cribs or beds.
What works to prevent suffocation?
Keep choking hazards away from children under three years of age. Young children should not eat nuts, raw carrots, popcorn or hotdogs. Keep small objects away from young children. If an object fits through a cardboard toilet paper roll, it can cause a young child to choke. Also, keep young children away from latex balloons.
Eliminate or modify items in the home that could cause strangulation. Common strangulation hazards include blind or curtain cords. These cords should be cut short and tied out of reach.
Ensure children have safe sleeping environments. Young children should sleep in cribs or cradles that were built after 1986. Sleeping environments should be free of soft bedding that could suffocate a child, such as comforters, pillows, crib bumpers, and stuffed animals.1 Do not use car seats for sleeping in the home and always place infants and toddlers on their backs when going to sleep.
Create and enforce legislation. This is a highly effective measure to reduce injuries and deaths. For example, regulations for cribs and cradles were last updated in 1986 to ensure that the mattress support was secured.
1 Nakamura S, Wind M, Danello MA. Review of hazards associated with children placed in adult beds. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 1999;153:1019–1023.