LSCBLocal Safeguarding Children Board Northamptonshire

Choking and suffocating

Babies and young children can easily swallow, inhale or choke on small items such as marbles, buttons, peanuts and small toys. It's also easy for them to get tangled in cords and bag straps.

Super Strong Magnets

Nationally we’ve seen a spate of hospital admissions from children swallowing super strong magnets. They’re found in toys, jewellery and fridge magnets. They’re often bought cheaply from online marketplaces and they can be 10 times stronger than the legal limit.

If swallowed, they can stick together inside a child’s belly and burn holes through their gut. The injuries can be life-threatening. It is important that parents are aware of the dangers these magnets can do to a child if swallowed.

Button batteries

There have also been recent cases of young children who have died or been badly injured after swallowing small 'button batteries'. These are small round silver batteries that are often found in toys, musical greeting cards, small remote controls and other devices.

The button batteries are not just a choking danger - if a child swallows one, the button battery quickly starts to corrode, allowing lethal acids to leak. A child should be taken to hospital immediately if you suspect they have swallowed a button battery, where medical staff should be made aware of the type of battery that's been swallowed.

Read more information from the Child Accident Prevention Trust on how to keep your children safe from button batteries.

Accidental causes of strangulation

Window blind and curtain cords 

Many young children have died after getting entangled in cords used to open and close curtains and blinds. 

Make sure that any cords are always kept well out of the reach of young children. 

Bag straps, dummy cords and clothing with ties/laces

Beware of clothing with cords, dummies on necklace cords and bag straps - they can easily get caught and pull tightly on the neck.

Accidental causes of suffocation

Plastic bags

Keep plastic bags away from young children - they can pull these over their heads and suffocate.

Nappy sacks

Bags used to dispose of soiled nappies can also pose a suffocation risk - keep them out of the reach of babies and young children.

Suffocation while sleeping

Lay your baby on their back in a cot to sleep. Don't let babies sleep in an adult bed or on the sofa and don't use pillows as they can suffocate.

Keep animals, particularly cats, out of your bedrooms - if they jump into cots or beds they could suffocate your child. Attach a net over prams if necessary.

Choking on small objects

Babies and small children instictively put small objects in their mouths. Make sure that you keep small objects out of reach of small children. 

Choose toys designed for the age of your baby or child - encourage older children to keep their toys away from babies and younger children.

Check that any toys you buy for babies and young children have no detachable parts that could come off and be swallowed, e.g. the plastic eyes or nose on a plush toy or teddybear could be chewed off. 

Last updated: 27 September 2021

A to Z of topics