Toddler’s tragic death after choking on popcorn is a warning to parents

A mum’s quiet birthday at home with her husband and four children took a tragic turn when a piece of popcorn became lodged in their youngest daughter’s throat.

Alison and Pat Lawson were sitting in the living room at the end of the day when their two-year-old daughter Mirranda ran to them for help.

A heartbreaking account of that moment was shared on a GoFundMe page set up by the couple’s niece as Mirranda was on life-support in hospital.

“At the end of Alison’s birthday, Mirranda ran in to the living room. Eyes huge, no sound.  Time stopped,” Bobbie Jo wrote.

“Those were the last moments they shared before Mirranda fell to the ground; they swept her mouth, nothing; Pat started CPR.  The ambulance got there, Mirranda’s heart stopped.”

That was in May and, sadly, this month little Mirranda passed away.

Small children are at a higher risk of choking

While Mirranda’s story was first shared to rally support for her family, it also served as a warning to all parents.

“This all was caused by a piece of popcorn.  (Please share the danger of popcorn, someone may not know),” Bobbie Jo wrote.

It really is every parent’s worst nightmare to lose a child. But, to lose them so easily to something that can be prevented, is terrifying.

Kidsafe general manager Jason Chambers tells Babyology that choking rates remain highest among children aged four and under in Australia.

“Today the zero to four age group is the most common age group where we see choking incidences occur,” Jason says.

Foods to look out for

Foods posing the greatest risk aren’t always the most obvious, says Jason.

“One of the most common foods, especially in recent times, causing a choking hazard among small children is grapes,” he warns.

“I think generally people think of harder types of food, such as boiled lollies and nuts.

“But things like grapes and popcorn can be equally as risky for children when their teeth haven’t fully developed and they are not yet able to chew foods down properly.

“Any solid foods they might not chew properly, could potentially choke them.”

Tips to prevent children from choking

Jason suggests a few ways parents can reduce their child’s risk of choking on food.

  • Cut or grate the food down to smaller, easy-to-swallow pieces
  • Slightly cook certain vegetables, such as carrots, to soften them
  • Avoid hard food that can’t easily be chewed by a child, such as boiled lollies, certain nuts and chewing gum
  • Ensure children are seated whenever they are eating, not running around or laying down

Learn first aid

Learning first aid and keeping those life saving skills up-to-date and fresh arms parents with the best chance to save their children from choking.

“It is something we say a lot when we [Kidsafe] go out and talk to parents. It really is a good idea to have first aid skills. Hopefully you’ll never need to use them, but then you are able to act in an emergency,” Jason says.

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