Choking On Food A Growing Hazard For Kids
July 29, 2013

34 American Children Treated For Choking On Food Every Day

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

As many as 34 American children are treated for food-related choking every day, claims a new study. The majority of the 12,435 children who choke every year do so on hard candy, with bones, meat, nuts and seeds also rounding out the list.

This study of nonfatal food-related choking instances also found children under the age of four are most susceptible to this danger, and they're most likely boys.

Dr. Gary Smith with the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio completed the study with his colleagues and said though these numbers are staggering, they're likely a conservative guess. His work will be reported online in the August issue of Pediatrics.

To gather this data, Dr. Smith and his colleagues looked to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System–All Injury Program, a survey which collects data about injury related emergency room visits to hospitals across America. During the nine-year span in which Dr. Smith and team were sampling data, between 2001 and 2009, 111,914 children under the age of 14 had been rushed to the ER because they had been choking. This placed the national rate at 20.4 visits each year per 100,000 children. This number was particularly high in 2001 when 17,537 children under 14 years of age were treated in an emergency room after choking on a piece of food rather than a small toy.

"These numbers are high," said Dr. Smith in a statement to Reuters. He then continued, "This is an underestimate. This doesn't include children who were treated in urgent care, by a primary care physician or who had a serious choking incident and were able to expel the food and never sought care."

According to the data collected from the national survey, the average age of children treated for choking hazards is 4.5, though younger children made up 37.8 percent of the reported cases, reports MedPage Today.

Of all the foods which can choke children, the data shows hard candy is most often the culprit, responsible for 15.5 percent of all cases. Other forms of candy, such as chocolate bars, accounted for 12.8 percent of the cases.

"Other high-risk foods, such as hot dogs, which can totally block the airway of a small child, or seeds and nuts, which can be difficult for them to chew, are more likely to lead to hospitalizations," explained Dr. Smith according to USA Today. "We know that because hot dogs are the shape and size of a child's airway that they can completely block a child's airway."

Though these numbers certainly paint a frightening picture for parents, there are a few fuzzy or missing data points which caused some to take the results with a grain of salt. Wendy Pomerantz, MD, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center told MedPage Today these results might not be a "big deal" because 87.3 percent of the children listed in this study were treated and released. Another 10 percent were taken to the hospital while 2.6 percent were taken away by their parents against medical advice.

The Columbus researchers responsible for this new study also caution that the results do not include choking instances which occurred in the home, nor did it explain how these children received the food which became lodged in their throats.