Choking on Food Continues to Climb for Children

cpr_childrenRecently, on the Newport Children’s Medical Group blog, we discussed the choking hazards of small button batteries.  Small items, like parts of toys, seem to find their way into the small hands of children exploring their new world.  But a recent study published in the August 2012 issue of Pediatrics focuses on nonfatal pediatric food-related choking on children younger than 14 years of age.   This study, the first nationally-representative sample to actually target emergency room visits due to food-related choking, found some pretty interesting statistics that many of us, not just parents, overlook.  In particular: the size and shape of certain foods just make them a choking hazard to little ones.

A Much-Needed Gentle Reminder

This investigative study revealed that between 2001 and 2009, 12, 435 children annually were taken to the emergency room for food-related choking, and that the average age of the child was about 4.5 years.  Some other interesting results from the study: 55 percent of male children accounted for the reported visits, and children under the age of one accounted for nearly 38 percent of the cases.

At the top of the list; foods most likely to be a hazard to small children include hard candy.  Fifteen percent of the nonfatal emergency room visits were because of hard candy, followed by meat at 13 percent and lastly bones at 12 percent.  The investigative study also found other high-risk foods to be a danger, such as seeds, nuts and hot dogs.  Those foods in particular were most likely to require hospitalizations.  Seeds and nuts can be so tiny for little teeth to hold and chew in place, and hot dogs have a slippery coating that can be easily sucked into any tiny airway.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, hotdogs, grapes and carrots can be hazardous as well and advise caregivers to cut them into quarters.  In fact, their recommendation is just to keep hard candy, hot dogs, nuts and chunks of meat or cheese away until the little ones reach the age of 4.

We, here at Newport Children’s Medical Group, would also like to recommend that when possible teach older siblings the importance of not feeding them pieces of food larger than half an inch to their younger sisters and brothers.  Pieces that large can get stuck and lodged in children’s airways.  Even something as simple and harmless as a small almond can induce choking.

Preventive Care is Available in Orange County

It goes without saying that everyone should know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and CPR, it’s especially important as a caregiver and parent.  Anyone who works with children, from camp counselors to babysitters to relatives, should know what to do in the event of a choking emergency.  Yes, those handy emergency call lists by the phone or refrigerator do help, but sometimes it’s the seconds that count most.  So after you’ve made the call, it’s important to know exactly what to do while help is on the way.

Learn CPR and the Heimlich maneuver

In Orange County, we’re blessed with many organizations that offer CPR classes.  It’s even better when you can take the class as a family.  Don’t forget to also sign up to learn the Heimlich maneuver.  Knowing what to do in a choking emergency can save anyone’s life.

At Newport Children’s Medical Group we’ve been proudly serving the Orange County communities for nearly 40 years.  Keeping your little ones safe and healthy all year round is our number one goal.  With our exceptional pediatricians and your diligence, we can work together to prevent tragedies like choking from happening and keep your entire family healthy for years to come.