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September 21, 2021

BehindTheMedspeak: Top 4 foods causing choking death in children

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From Mary Roach's superb March 25, 2013 New York Times Science section front page story :

Round foods are particularly treacherous because they match the shape of the trachea.

If a grape goes down the wrong way, it blocks the tube so completely that no breath can be drawn around it.

Hot dogs, grapes, and round candies take [three out of the top four slots*] in a list of killer foods published in the July 2008 issue of The International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology (IJPO — itself a calamitous mouthful).

A candy called Lychee Mini Fruity Gels [top] has killed enough times for the Food and Drug Administration to have banned its import.

*Meat other than hot dogs was #2 — right behind #1 hot dogs (see graphic below from the IJPO paper cited above).

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Below, the abstract of the IJPO paper.

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Fatal and non-fatal food injuries among children (aged 0–14 years)

Objective

To identify and characterize food items with high risk of airway obstruction in children younger than 15 years.

Methods

This retrospective study collected injury data from 1989 to 1998 for 26 pediatric hospitals in the United States and Canada. Aspiration, choking, ingestion, and insertion injuries due to food items were analyzed. The data included 1429 infants and children. Results were compared with fatality data published by the American Association of Pediatrics in 1984.

Results

The 10 food objects with the highest frequency for both injuries and fatalities were identified.

B

Peanuts caused the highest frequency of injury, and hot dogs were most often associated with fatal outcomes.

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The severity of respiratory distress prior to hospital evaluation varied for different foods. Age younger than 3 years was the highest-risk factor. Key characteristics such as bite size, shape, and texture were analyzed and found to demonstrate relationships with severity of clinical outcomes.

Conclusions

Children younger than 3 years remain at greatest risk of food injury and death. We found that hard, round foods with high elasticity or lubricity properties, or both, pose a significant level of risk. Consideration of the key characteristics of the most hazardous foods may greatly decrease airway obstruction injuries. Food safety education can help pediatricians and parents select, process, and supervise appropriate foods for children younger than 3 years to make them safer for this highest-risk population.

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Note: this post originally appeared on March 28, 2013.

September 21, 2021 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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