TikTok isn’t just for teens who like syncing to Megan Thee Stallion or adventurers curious about making cereal pancakes. The wildly popular video app can also be a lifesaver, when it’s used to send helpful information to millions of users with just a click. That’s what inspired Dr. Nkeiruka Orajiaka, a pediatrician in Columbus, Ohio, to create a TikTok account in which she offers quick information on a variety of medical topics.
In proper TT fashion, Dr. Orajiaka dances and syncs as she shows how to properly check a baby’s bathwater temperature (with the wrist or elbow, not the finger), what to feed a sick child to avoid dehydration (watermelon, fruit popsicles, and yogurt are all great), which baby rashes are nothing to worry about (“stork bites” go away over time), and that old wives’ tale about swallowing gum (it won’t stay in your stomach for seven years).
But the video that’s burning up the internet at the moment is a hack that could potentially save thousands of lives. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, unintentional choking is the leading cause of death in children under one year, and the fourth most common in children ages 1 to 9, and a hazard that sends roughly 17,000 children to the emergency room every year. Food is the most common source of choking, although about a third of all choking incidents involve non-food items. Knowing these grim statistics, Dr. Orajiaka made a TikTok showing how parents can use a common household item to help lower those odds.
Use the "toilet paper tube" hack to find choking hazards
Young children’s smaller airways and their habit of putting things in their mouths make them especially susceptible to choking on small objects. That’s why toy packages are labeled with “choking hazard” warnings that the toy isn’t safe for children under 3 years old. As Dr. Orajiaka explained to PopSugar, the Consumer Product Safety Commission tests the safety of toys by using a small cylindrical device that simulates the airway of small children. If a toy fits through the device — or if it has parts that can be broken off and slip through — it’s a hazard.
Dr. Orajiaka’s TikTok shows her demonstrating the technique with an empty toilet paper tube. She drops several large toys on the top of the tube to show that they don’t fall through: “You see this? We want this. We love this. We need this.” Then she shows how smaller toys go right through the tube: “But this — we don’t need this!” The video has received nearly half a million views on the app, as well as messages of gratitude from parents (per TODAY).
The pediatrician told PopSugar that some toys may still present choking hazards even if they don’t fit through a cardboard tube, so parents should still supervise kids at play. She also advises against giving children latex balloons — which are easily inhaled — and battery-operated toys that don’t have screw-on compartments. Certain foods should never be given to children under 4; per Nationwide Children’s Hospital, these include hot dogs, popcorn, nuts and seeds, grapes, hard candy, raisins, and marshmallows.
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