Food-related Choking Among Children in the United States

September 3, 2013 — By

Editor’s note: Thanks goes to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for this informative article.

Food-related Choking Among Children in the United States

Candy, particularly hard candy, meat, and bones were key foods involved in choking episodes among children ages 0-14 years, according to a report published today by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The first ever multi-year study of food-related choking among children was published in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers examined data for children 14 years old or younger treated in emergency departments (EDs) in the United States for nonfatal food-related choking from 2001 through 2009.

Key Findings

  • Of all known food types, hard candy caused the most (16%) choking episodes, followed by other candy (13%), meat (other than hot dogs) (12%), and bone (12%).
  • An average of 34 children per day were treated in EDs for nonfatal food-related choking episodes from 2001 through 2009.
  • While most children with food-related choking were treated and released from the ED, 10% were hospitalized.
  • Most of these events occurred at home (90%).
  • The average age of patients was 4.5 years.
  • Children 1 year old or younger accounted for about 38% of all food-related choking episodes.

Prevention

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended numerous measures to prevent food-related choking among children including:

  • Labeling high-risk foods with information regarding choking risk to children,
  • Monitoring food-related choking incidents with details about circumstances, and
  • Educating the public about food-related choking hazards.

Advice for Parents and Caregivers

AAP and CDC have recommendations for parents and caregivers to prevent food-related choking among children:

  • Children younger than 5 years should not be given hard candies or gum.
  • Raw fruits and vegetables should be cut up into strips or non-rounded small pieces.
  • Children should sit and be supervised while eating.
  • Children should never run, walk, play, or lie down with food in their mouths.
  • Parents and caregivers should learn basic first aid and CPR.
  • If the child is having breathing difficulties, but is still able to speak or has a strong cough, call 911.
  • If the child cannot breathe at all, then they need immediate attention. Call 911 and administer first aid.

CDC’s Injury Center works to protect the safety of everyone, every day. For more information about child safety, please visit cdc.gov/safechild or Email darpi@cdc.gov.

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