This is why children under 5 shouldn’t eat popcorn

Child choking on popcorn warning

A mum is warning about the dangers of giving popcorn to young children after her toddler’s frightening choking incident left him with popcorn in his lungs.

Nicole Goddard shared her story on Facebook to make sure other parents know not to give children under five-years-old popcorn, after her toddler Nash ended up needing surgery after a home movie night.

“Last Saturday night we were all watching a movie and eating popcorn which is a very frequent event on the weekend in our home,” Nicole, who lives in the U.S. explained. “I didn’t think twice to give Nash popcorn. Nash had small choking episode but was fine. We didn’t see anything come out so we assumed he swallowed it. He seemed completely fine and continued to watch the movie. The only thing we observed was a cough he developed after the episode.”

Nicole says Nash was fine the next day but still had a strange sounding cough. She assumed he was just catching the same illness the rest of the family was fighting. Her husband Jake left for a three-day trip on Monday, with Nash still with the same cough. But that night, things took a turn.

“As the evening came I noticed Nash felt warm and he was super fussy. He had a fever, so I gave him Motrin and put him to bed. A very long night with him and then his breathing looked a little laboured to me and he just didn’t feel good. I called my pediatrician immediately and said Nash needs to be seen ASAP. We went in and got sent to the children’s main campus immediately. After a chest x-ray the doctor didn’t like what he saw so he got scheduled that evening for a Bronchoscopy.”

Mum's warning after child chokes on popcorn

Nicole’s husband flew back home, with Nash heading into surgery that night. “I paced and cried the entire time my little man was in surgery. Jake arrived at the hospital just in time to go to recovery and see Nash. He had aspirated popcorn into his lungs when he choked. The body recognised it as a foreign object and put puss pockets around it. All the inflammation caused him to develop pneumonia in his left lung. During the procedure, the doctor got out six pieces.

“There was so much inflammation so the doctor wasn’t 100 per cent he got it all so scheduled him to be admitted and repeat the procedure in two days. It was an up and down roller coaster but we were in the best care.”

Nash had the second procedure, with surgeons finding another piece of popcorn. “Nash was a rockstar and recovered well. He had to go one hour on room air oxygen without his o2 dropping under 90. He passed and we were discharged that evening.”

Mum's warning after child chokes on popcorn

Nicole says if she hadn’t trusted her instinct, the outcome wouldn’t have been so positive. It’s prompted her to warn other parents against giving their young children popcorn.

“We’re so thankful our little man came out ok. All of this over popcorn which is eaten on a regular basis in our home. I got a lecture of course on how popcorn isn’t supposed to be given to anyone under five. I hate to use the excuse he’s our third child so I overlook and don’t pay as close attention to the do’s and dont’s as we did with our first. Always trust your gut because it’s right!”

Other children who have choked on popcorn haven’t been as lucky as Nash, in 2016 two-year-old Mirranda Grace Lawson choked on a single kernel of popcorn and died after spending six months on life support.

Foods that are a choking risk in young children

According to Raising Children, anything smaller than a D-sized battery can cause airway blockages, including:

  • lollies
  • raw apples
  • pieces of meat
  • nuts
  • raw carrots
  • uncooked peas
  • seeds – including popcorn kernels
  • grapes
  • fruit pips and stones
  • hot dogs
  • sausages

What to do if your child is choking

Most parents do not know the correct technique when it comes to helping a choking infant or child, even though almost 60 per cent say that choking is a major fear.

Have a look at this incredibly important video by St John Ambulance on what to do if your infant is choking:

If you don’t have time to watch the video, please take note of the three steps:

  1. Lay child face down on your thigh and give up to five back blows.
  2. Turn child over and give up to five chest thrusts.
  3. If that doesn’t work, call an ambulance.

For an older child, bend the child forward rather than laying them face down on your thigh. The procedure remains the same as above.

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