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Protecting Preschoolers from Choking

free_hotdogDealing with a picky preschooler at the dinner table may be the least of your concerns, according to a new study.  Instead of stressing about your child’s refusal to eat his veggies, researchers warn parents that they should be carefully monitoring four year olds while they chow down on classic kid favorites, like hot dogs, as the number of choking incidents among preschool-aged children is dangerously high.

Researchers say a staggering 34 children a day are admitted to hospital emergency rooms due to choking.  That translates to more than 12,000 emergency room visits a year, though the study’s author notes the actual number of children who choke on food is likely much greater considering that most kids who choke don’t end up in the emergency room.

Along with hot dogs, the study found that candy was the most common culprit in choking incidents, along with nuts, seeds, meat, bones, fruits and vegetables.  In most cases, the aforementioned foods were not cut up small enough for preschoolers to safely swallow.   Other high-risk foods include peanut butter, marshmallows, chewing gum, chips, popcorn and chunks of cheese.

Another factor playing into the nearly 60 childhood food choking deaths reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention annually is a preschooler’s tendency to fool around during mealtime.  To prevent choking, don’t allow your preschooler to play, walk or run while eating.  In addition, it’s important to remind your child to chew and swallow his food before talking.  Also, watch your child carefully as he eats.  Preschoolers shouldn’t be stuffing large amounts of food in their mouth regardless of how small the items are cut up.

Researchers also noted that many parents of preschoolers are lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to choking because they think their children are old enough to chew foods properly.  However, the study found hot dogs are almost the exact shape and size of a preschooler’s airway and can often get lodged so tightly that the child requires hospitalization.  To avoid this from happening to your preschooler, simply cut the hot dog into thirds before serving.


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About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.