Dealing 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.