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Wake-up call on food-choking risks

I was sad when my grandmother died some 30 years ago. But she was up in years and had lived a full life.

The funeral home handling her arrangements was also handling those for a teenager who had died, I was told, having choked on a hot dog. That death has haunted me ever since, and it makes me nervous every time my own kids eat hot dogs.

This morning the American Academy of Pediatrics, in its journal Pediatrics, issues a call for better package labeling on foods such as hot dogs that pose choking risks. The AAP's paper also calls for measures such as redesigning certain foods -- for instance, lollipops and other hard candies -- to reduce the risk someone will choke on them.

The paper cites alarming statistics: "Choking on food causes the death of approximately 1 child every 5 days in the United States. Hot dogs accounted for 17% of food-related asphyxiations among children younger than 10 years of age. . . ."

Making changes that might cut those numbers is a good idea. But many of the proposals will take a while to put in place. In the meantime, the AAP's paper serves as a wake-up call, not just for parents of young kids but to parents of teens and, heck, even people who aren't parents at all. We all need to be more careful as we eat; wolfing food down and taking too-big bites set us all up for trouble.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  February 22, 2010; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , General Health  
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As a kid, I used to sometimes choke when eating hard-boiled eggs, which were very dry. I no longer eat eggs, so now it's not a problem. Now I sometimes choke when swallowing nutritional supplement tablets.

Posted by: foofoofoo | February 22, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

How is "1 child every 5 days" an "alarming statistic"?

Really? That adds up to 73 children a year. In the whole US! How is that a big deal?

I know there are people that want to do everything for the children. Personally, I can live with 73 kids dying from choking every year. I would bet there are more lottery winners each year.

Posted by: SSFromNO | February 22, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I was at a friend's house in high school and one of our buddies choked to death on a hot dog in front of us - it was awful and traumatizing. We were only 15 and the adult that was present did the Heimlich but it didn't work. I would think that a 15-year old isn't much of a choking risk, so to me it just shows how dangerous these things are for little kids. Why can't hot dogs be made into a different shape? It's not like it's "real meat".

Posted by: LilyBell | February 22, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Before you know it, there will be a proposal that we all "eat" liquid foods to avoid the risk of choking. PLEASE. The number of kids who choke to death in America every year is VERY small and we will never eliminate the risks that just with being alive. If you want to do something, encourage kids to chew their food well. As for younger kids, be smart about what you feed them until they are old enough to take direction to chew well.

Posted by: MdLaw | February 22, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I have a three year old. We cut up her Hot Dogs and we sit with her while she eats.

I had to Heimlich my middle kid at Clyde's when she tried to eat too much bread.

Has anyone choked to death during the July 4th Hot Dog Eating contest?

Perhaps eating is best left to trained professionals......

Posted by: jmccas | February 22, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

How is "1 child every 5 days" an "alarming statistic"?

Really? That adds up to 73 children a year. In the whole US! How is that a big deal?

I know there are people that want to do everything for the children. Personally, I can live with 73 kids dying from choking every year. I would bet there are more lottery winners each year.

Really? That is the most insensitive, insane, sumb comment I have ever heard. No one is asking for the banning of hot dogs or the banning of solid foods. They are talking about better labeling so people are aware of the risks. But you are ok with 73 kids a year dying instead of trying some simple things to make the public aware. How many kids have to die before you care? Is 250 enough? Then should we do something about it? What about 1000? What id you knew your kid or grandkid or sister would be one of those statistics? I bet you would be okay with trying something to prevent it then. Man I can't believe that some people are such.....

Posted by: happydad3 | February 22, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

FGS! Not another stupid useless warning label! I'm truly sorry that any child chokes to death. But horrible accidents happen. We can't "warn" against all of them. And apparently this is one that seldom happens. Is a new warning label targeting certain foods really necessary because less than 100 kids choke to death each year. How about we just tatoo a general warning label on all foreheads at birth: "Warning: Living is hazardous to your health." That should cover it. Then perhaps these overwrought warning label advocates can find something useful to do with all their spare time.

Posted by: debrajd | February 22, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

The idea of labelling everything a child could put in their mouth and chock on is the height of stupidity, unless maybe you make warning stickers.

Each and every edible item in the grocery store would require a warning, making the warnings worthless an an indication of danger.

Teach your kids to chew their food. Know the Heimlich manuever.

Any effort to further this boneheaded labelling idea is a complete and utter waste of someone's time, money, and concern.

Posted by: wizard2 | February 22, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

The useful statistic that no one seems to want to provide is this: Americans eat an estimated 20 billion hot dogs a year. How many of those hot dogs are the cause of choking per year? About 117. What else do we want to regulate that has a 117 in 20 billion chance of occurring? Choke-proof hot dog=bologna. Problem solved. Both are equally unhealthy for children but at least the bologna is a better shape.

Posted by: sam38 | February 23, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Which is more dangerous to a child under ten years of age, a hot dog or a Toyota? The statistics I have read point to a hot dog.

Posted by: mgdnurse | February 23, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Think of what would happen if your kid ate a hot dog while riding in a Toyota.

Posted by: StrollerMomma | February 24, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

As a public health professional, I think the choking article brings an awareness to parents. The point is parents can help reduce the risk IF they know about them. Hot dogs are not the only culprit; kids choke on grapes and hard oval-shaped candy, among other foods. So cut up that food for the little ones, or avoid them altogether.

Posted by: bonbon1 | February 24, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Kids can choke on apples, bread and many other food items, not to mention toy parts, jewelry, etc.

Parents have the responsibility to be watchful when kids are eating or playing. And I totally agree with one poster - if you want to put warning labels on hot dogs, then you will need to put warning labels on many, many other items in the stores - and not only grocery stores!

Posted by: Utahreb | February 27, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Hot Dog Maker's Dirty Little Secret Revealed: They Don't Warn People to Chew.

Posted by: spamsux1 | February 27, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

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