Choking Hazards for Babies

A choking hazard is any object that could be caught in a child’s throat, blocking their airway and making it difficult or impossible to breathe.1

If you think your child is choking, call 911 or your emergency services number immediately. Do not wait. Brain damage or death can occur within 4 minutes of oxygen deprivation.2

While a baby could even choke on milk, it’s important to avoid or modify foods that are common choking hazards. The below lists include foods identified as choking hazards by the U.S. CDC 3 as well as by the American Academy of Pediatrics.4

Top Choking Hazards

Choking is a leading cause of death among children and among these incidents is a recurring pattern of high-risk foods. Whether you are preparing food for a 6 month old or a four year old, be sure to know the foods that carry the highest risk. (An asterisk denotes foods that are not appropriate for babies in any form.)

  • Apple (raw)
  • Baby carrots
  • Berries
  • Bread with nut butters
  • Candy*
  • Canned fruit
  • Carrots (raw)*
  • Celery (raw)
  • Cheese, especially string cheese and cubes
  • Cherries
  • Chickpeas
  • Chips and snack foods*
  • Cookies*
  • Corn kernels
  • Dried Fruit
  • Fish with bones
  • Granola bars*
  • Grapes
  • Hot dogs*
  • Ice*
  • Melon balls
  • Peanuts
  • Peas
  • Pear (raw)
  • Pretzels*
  • Nuts and seeds (whole)
  • Nut butters (chunks of)
  • Oranges (if membrane is not removed)
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Popcorn*
  • Marshmallow*
  • Meat sticks (like those processed round sticks)*
  • Raisins
  • Raw vegetables
  • Rice, barley and grains (whole kernel)
  • Sausage
  • Shrimp
  • Tapioca beads (such as those in bubble tea)*
  • Tomatoes (cherry and grape)

Modifying Foods to Lower Choking Risk

While there are foods on the above list that are not appropriate for babies in any form, there are many nutritious foods you can modify to make them safer for babies. For example, round foods like grapes and cherry tomatoes can be cut vertically into quarters; nuts can be finely ground and sprinkled on other food; nut butters can be thinned out with yogurt or applesauce. For detailed information on age-appropriate food shapes and sizes, check out our page on safe food sizes and shapes.

  1. Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Family Resources & Education, Choking Hazard Safety. (Website) Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  2. Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Family Resources & Education, Choking Hazard Safety. (Website) Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  3. United States Centers for Disease Control and Protection, Choking Hazards https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/choking-hazards.html
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics, Prevention of Choking https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/choking-hazards.html