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Reading This May Save Your Child's Life!

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Read this list of foods that the American Academy of Pediatrics considers to be choking hazards for children -- it may save your child's life!

child chokihg
Dr. Nina Shapiro: Every five days in the U.S. alone, a child dies from choking on food. In addition, over 10,000 children come to U.S. emergency rooms every year for food choking episodes. Most of these kids are under four years old. Because of their immature swallowing control, lack of a complete set of molars (which usually fully develop at age six), rare ability to sit still while eating, and poor coordination protecting their breathing passages, young children are the group most frequently affected by food choking. It is one of the leading causes of accidental injuries in the home for this age group.

The Child Safety Protection Act of 1994 mandated that choking hazard labels be placed on all toys intended for children under age six if they contain small parts, and on all balloons and marbles intended for children. Unfortunately, there is no similar mandate in place for food choking risks. While the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control give specific guidelines and recommendations regarding which foods to avoid feeding young children, there are no legislative guidelines in place. The FDA investigates foods that pose an unusual choking hazard, and will issue a recall or special labeling; however, this occurs infrequently and does not include common food items given to children.

Since we don't have the labels on foods yet, here is a list of foods that the AAP considers to be choking hazards for children under three years old:

1. Hot dogs (unless cut lengthwise, and then in half-circle or quarter-circle shapes) (These are one of the few foods that may actually have choking risk labeling.)
2. Any nuts
3. Seeds (especially with shells, such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds)
4. Whole grapes (These may be peeled, à la Roman times, and then cut into quarters)
5. Popcorn
6. Raw vegetables
7. Chewing gum
8. Hard candy

We've all fed our kids some of the items from the list above. It's not worth the risk. As an airway doctor, I've treated kids who have choked on all of these items. Even older kids (and adults, for that matter) can choke on food. Surgical removal is most always the treatment, but horrific outcomes such as permanent brain damage or death are not just sensational news stories, they are real, and too common.

If you have ANY questions about food safety, check with your doctor. If they don't know, err on the side of caution.

next: Liam's First Day of Preschool
12 comments so far | Post a comment now
Camille July 6, 2009, 4:53 PM

Good post. My pediatrician gave me a list of foods that are choking hazards and I keep it on my fridge for reminders…although I don’t need to be reminded because I’ve committed them to memory before my now two year old daughter started eating solids.

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