Legal Articles

August 4, 2013

Choking causes thousands of emergency room visits each year

About 34 kids each day in the last decade in the U.S. went to the emergency room after a choking experience, a new study is reporting. Hard candy is most common, followed by soft candy, and then by things such as hot dogs, seeds, and nuts. Dr. Gary Smith, one of the researchers who worked on the study at Nationwide Children’s Hospital out of Columbus, Oh., said, “These numbers are high,” but they are also “an underestimate.”

Hot dogs often  require hospitalization

The study only looked at kids who were treated at emergency rooms, not those “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 and never sought care.” The statistics showed 12,435 children under the age of 14 were treated for choking on food, 38 percent of which were one year old and younger. One in four of the visits were necessitated by hard candies, with meat coming in at number two on the choking list, followed by bones, then fruits and vegetables. Hot dogs, seeds, and nuts were the food items most likely to require hospitalization after the choking experience. Luckily, just one in ten children require the hospitalization. Most are discharged after being checked out by a doctor.

Dr. Smith explained, “We know that because hot dogs are the shape and size of a child’s airway that they can completely block a child’s airway.” Seeds and nuts are dangerous because of how much children tend to stuff into their mouths at a time.

Most kids expel blockage on their own

Though most of the time kids have coughed the blockage out by the time they get to the emergency room, a small percentage experience longer-term effects. Dr. Ronald Litman, an anesthesiologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said every year he sees  a few kids “who have inhaled peanuts and end up in intensive care because their lungs mount an inflammatory response to the fat in the nuts.”

Supervision is key

The best way to prevent choking is to be observant about what and how your children are eating. Make sure you cut food into small enough pieces, control portion size, and be on the lookout for foods that might be inhaled too easily. Grapes, for instance, should be cut in half before being served to young children.


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