The 4-Safety Program

Choking and Poisoning Hazards in the Home

The home should be one of the safest places for your children to grow and play. However, there are many hazards found in the home that can lead to unintentional injury and even death. With their natural curiosity, limited judgment and modeling of adults, children are at high risk for unintentional injury. Learning about the things in your home that pose a danger to your children is the first step toward prevention. Did you know that choking and poisonings are two of the top ten leading causes of injury related deaths?

Children under the age of four are at the highest risk for unintentional choking, as their airways are smaller and more pliable than those of older children and adults. The majority of fatal choking incidents occur in children less than three years of age. Children under four also have immature teeth and chewing mechanisms that contribute to their increased risk of choking. The most effective prevention strategy is to learn which objects are potential choking hazards, and keep them out of the hands of children under the age of five. Stay away from food items like hot dogs and hard candies. Keep all small, hard, round objects and toys out of reach until children are at least five years old. The next strategy is to learn how to respond to a choking emergency by becoming CPR and Heimlich certified.

Eighty percent of all poisonings occur in children under five years old and half of the calls to the U.S. Poison Control Centers are regarding children less than six years of age. The most common location for unintentional poisonings to happen is in the home. Ninety-four percent of the calls to US Poison Control Centers for incidents involving children less than five years old occurred in the home. A key part of keeping poisons out of reach of children is learning how to properly dispose of any unused, unwanted, or expired chemicals and medications as well as learning proper storage techniques. See our list of resources. The next step is learning the Poison Help number: 1-800-222-1222.

Additional information on choking and poisoning prevention

Did You Know?

  • Choking is the 4th leading cause of unintentional death in children less than 5 years and accounts for 1 child death every 5 days.
  • Latex balloons are the leading cause of choking death and hot dogs are the number 1 food-related cause of choking fatality in young children.
  • Nationwide, about 300 children a day are seen in emergency departments for a poisoning related incident and 2 of those children will die from their injuries.
  • 23% of prescription medication ingested by children less than 5 belonged to a visitor in the home.

Learn more safety tips with links to resources and pdfs 

Choking and Poisoning Hazards in the Home

Poisoning Prevention

More than 64,000 children are treated in emergency rooms each year because they got into medication while unsupervised. Watch this video, made with the support of McNeil Healthcare, for tips on keeping your kids safe.

This informative interview with the CDC's Dan Budnitz, MD, MPH, CAPT, USPHS; McNeil's Ed Kuffner, MD and Safe Kids' President Kate Carr presents an overview of why and how to keep kids safe around medicine.

Jeff Rossen of the Today show, along with Kate Carr, explores the troubling trend of unintentional medication poisoning in children.

Gary takes to the street to talk to teenagers about medication safety.

Liquid laundry pods are convenient and easy to use but Consumer Reports says it won't recommend them because they pose a danger to young children.

Choking Prevention

Many foods can be choking hazards, but hot dogs cause the most choking deaths among children. Parents and caregivers often believe it is safe to cut a hot dog into thin, round slices. However, if swallowed whole, these hot dog slices can cause choking (video by CIRP Injury Center).

This video for families of children with special needs highlights choking prevention.

Dina Morrissey, MD, MPH, program coordinator for the Injury Prevention Center at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, discusses toy safety guidelines and how parents can identify safe toys to give to young children.