Suffocating and choking

Children can swallow or inhale items such as small toys, peanuts and marbles leading to suffocating and choking.

Nappy sacks, used to dispose of soiled nappies, can also pose a risk to babies and young children. We are aware of at least 12 deaths involving these items, where babies have suffocated after a nappy sack covered their mouth and nose, or have choked after putting a nappy sack in their mouth.

Parents and carers are generally aware of the dangers of suffocating and choking posed by plastic bags, but may not make the link to nappy sacks posing similar risks. Nappy sacks or bags tend to be fragranced, are made of a much more flimsy material, and do not rustle in the same way as plastic bags meaning they can be easily grasped and breathed in by young babies without parents realising.

Babies and small children are most at risk from suffocating and choking because they examine things around them by putting them in their mouths.

Prevention

  • Choose toys appropriate to the age of the child
  • Ensure that small objects such as marbles and peanuts and small toys are kept out of reach of children under three years old
  • Encourage older children to keep their toys away from their younger playmates
  • Pull cords on curtains and blinds should be kept short and kept out of reach
  • Keep animals, especially cats, out of the bedroom and use a net on a pram
  • Keep nappy sacks out of the reach of babies and young children
  • Never store nappy sacks in or around the cot or pram.