By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Choking happens when an object gets stuck in the trachea (windpipe) and breathing becomes very difficult or impossible. A small object blocking one of the major airways usually causes choking in children. This may be a small toy that they have put in their mouth and inadvertently swallowed, or it may be a small piece of food that hasn't been properly chewed. Choking commonly occurs in children because their windpipe is very small. Putting things in their mouths is one of the ways that babies and small children explore the world. Anything that fits in their mouths can be a danger. Choking is usually caused by food, toys, and other small objects such as beads or buttons that can easily lodge in a child's small airway.

Following are some suggestions to prevent choking in children:

Choking often begins with small coughs or gasps as the child tries to draw in breath around the obstruction or clear it out. This may be followed by struggling sound or croaky whispers as the child tries to tell you that he or she cannot breathe. The child may get restless and dribble and their eyes may get teary. They may flush red and then turn blue. Some children, particularly babies, can be astonishingly quiet as they choke. Some children might even lose consciousness if their air passage is not cleared.

If your child is choking and has trouble breathing, first aid suggestions include:

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,