Last week in central Indiana, a three year old girl died while eating a picnic with a sitter and other children. The girl was finishing her first hot dog when other children began to discuss who would eat the last one; she instinctively grabbed for the last one and shoved it into her mouth. This action caused the other bites in her mouth to become lodged in her throat and even with the valiant efforts of the sitter, she was pronounced dead a little later by accidental asphyxiation. Despite the many reports that are out as to choking hazards for children, it seems that many people still do not know that many foods are very dangerous for small children, especially those under the age of 5.
The American Association of Pediatrics lists that choking is the fourth leading cause of death for children under 5. There are 66-77 children under the age of 10 who choke to death on food each year. There needs to be more awareness as to the dangers of the foods that we allow children to eat at a young age. Maybe it would be possible for physicians to offer classes for parents of young children that remind them of these hazards. Maybe a magnet for the front of the refrigerator that has a list of the most dangerous foods for a child.
As I was reading the article, I decided to look at cases of children’s asphyxiation deaths in the United States. As I was reading some of the cases, I was surprised, if not shocked, by some of the foods that are the most dangerous. Hot dogs are the most dangerous and I assumed that most people knew this, but there are many known cases of this food causing children to choke to death. The information must not be as prevalent as I assumed.
Other foods that cause choking deaths in children under the age of 5 are marshmallows, popcorn, jelly candies, peanuts, raisins, and hard candy. I was mostly shocked by the marshmallows and the raisins. When I think about it, it seems obvious, but I know of several occasions that I gave my daughter raisins as a snack. Looking back, I am thankful that they survived a mistake that I made.
Foods that are cylinder or round in shape that can lodge in a windpipe are all dangerous to a child. Popcorn is dangerous as the hulls can cause issues if they become lodged in the back of the throat. Marshmallows are almost a double issue as they are round and can become bigger as they are lodged and get moist. Peanuts are dangerous due to both shape and size as well.
As I was writing this article, I was thinking about a few others that are dangerous as well. Peanut butter due to the thickness of it could lodge in the mouth and allow no air into the airway. Carrots due to their shape could also be an issue. I would also believe that celery due to the shape and stringiness of it could be a choking hazard as well.
The best advice I could give parents or babysitters of small children is to cut everything into bite size pieces before it is ever set in front of a child and be sure that children are not given foods that are considered a risk. Also, be sure that you are close by if a child is eating, as you never know what they might attempt to put into their mouths. Be very aware of the foods that are a danger and be sure that children are not running and playing while they are eating. These tips could help prevent another family from suffering the tremendous loss that this family has endured.