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The City of Portland, Oregon

Fire & Rescue

Always Ready, Always There

Phone: 503-823-3700

Fax: 503-823-3710

55 SW Ash Street, Portland, OR 97204

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Choking, Suffocation and Strangulation Prevention

Everyone needs to be able to breathe in order to live.  Breathing requires a clear “airway.”  Anything that blocks your airway is very dangerous because it can cut off your air supply.

Safety Messages 
1.      Eating is serious business.
  • Put only small amounts of food in your mouth and chew each mouthful slowly and thoroughly. 
  • Remain seated while chewing food – don’t run or play while eating.  Young children are at risk from choking on small, round foods such as hot dogs, candies, nuts, grapes, marshmallows, and popcorn. 
  • Nonfood items that are dangerous choking hazards include coins, balloons, marbles, and buttons.  Keep these and similar choking hazards away from young children.

2.      Save your breath.

Strangulation occurs among children when items such as clothing, drawstrings, ribbons, necklaces, and window blind cords wrap around their necks.  Young children also can strangle in openings that permit the passage of their bodies, yet that are to small for and entrap their heads, such as bunk bed guardrails and playground equipment.
  • Children should not tie items such as necklaces, ribbons, or drawstrings around their necks.
  • Window blind cords should be cut and tied up out of the reach of children.
  • To prevent suffocation, young children should never play with plastic bags or go inside anything that can trap them such as refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, trunks, and toy boxes.

3.       The Heimlich Maneuver
  • Ask if the person in distress can cough, speak, or breathe. If he or she can, then do not interfere.  If the person is unable to cough, speak, or breathe, begin the Heimlich maneuver.
  • Stand behind the person.  Place the thumb side of your fist against the middle of the person’s abdomen, just above the navel.  Grasp your fist with your other hand.
  • Give quick, upward thrusts into the abdomen.  Repeat the thrusts until the obstruction is dislodged.

Know the Facts
In the United States in 1993, 360 children ages 14 and under died as a result of mechanical suffocation in the home.  That same year, choking resulted in 300 deaths in children ages 14 and under. Source: National Safety Council.
Each year, almost 100 young children in Canada die as a result of suffocation or choking.  Two-thirds of the children who die do so as a result of suffocation that has a mechanical cause, such as small objects or strangulation by ropes or cords.  One-third die as a result of choking on food.  Source: Health Canada 
Most playground strangulation incidents involve entanglement.  The typical entanglement scenario occurs because something a child is wearing gets caught on equipment – very often slides or swings.  Clothing, scarves, mittens, jacket strings, and jacket hoods have become entangled in narrow gaps between equipment components, openings or holes at the top of slides, on vertical posts, and on open connecting links such as “S” hooks, causing death by strangulation.  Ropes, jump ropes, and leashes, either attached to equipment or being worn around a child’s neck, have also been implicated in playground strangulation deaths.  Source: Consumer Federation of America