Study puts new spotlight on choking hazards

Monday, July 29, 2013

Now my second cousin

His name was Callaway

He died when he'd barely turned two

It was peanut butter and jelly that did it

The help she didn't know what to do

She just stood there and watched him turn blue

-- Lyle Lovett, "Family Reserve."

"Danger: Choking Hazard" is a common warning when you check out Christmas toys, and the effort has paid off with incidents involving small children.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for food, according to a study published today in Pediatricks.

An estimated 12,435 children age 14 and younger are treated for choking on food each year, about 34 going to the emergency room each day after choking on food.

About 38 percent of them are babies one year or younger, and many choked on formula or breast milk.

Overall, candy caused one in four trips to the ER, followed by meat, bones, fruits and vegetables.

Those who choked on a hot dog or seeds and nuts were two to three times more likely to require hospitalization than those who choked on other foods.

Hot dogs are just the right shape to completely block a child's airway, of course, but seeds and nuts are difficult to swallow when children put a lot in their mouths at once.

Most of the kids have coughed out the food by the time they get to the ER, and the study didn't include children who were treated in urgent care, by a primary care physician or who had a serious choking incident and were able to expel the food without seeking care.

Better labeling of potentially hazardous food might help, but it's important that food is in small enough pieces for children to chew and swallow it safely. While raisins are probably safe to eat whole, for example, grapes should be cut in half for young children to eat. To be safe, avoid giving children under 5 small, round or hard foods, including whole pieces of hot dogs, cheese sticks or chunks, hard candy, nuts, grapes, marshmallows or popcorn.

Nothing can replace careful supervision by a parent or caregiver, however.

And, parents or caregivers should be sure to take a CPR course, with special emphasis on caring for children.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: