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Fatal Choking a Real Risk Among Toddlers
Date:4/19/2010

Study finds 3 percent of those who get something lodged in their throat die

MONDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- Although the number of young children who choke after swallowing a foreign object is relatively low, the risk of death when that happens is real, the latest research indicates.

"In such cases, the mortality is about 3 percent," said study author Dr. Rahul K. Shah, a pediatric otolaryngologist with the Children's National Medical Center and George Washington University School of Medicine, both in Washington, D.C. "And that is, in fact, pretty high. And it's frustrating because it's been that way for a long time."

"So I would stress to parents that the threat to children is real," he cautioned. "I myself have two kids, and I'm obsessed with how they're fed, what they eat and what they can get their hands on. Because choking can happen to any family, anywhere."

Shah and his team report the findings in the April issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology--Head & Neck Surgery.

The current risk calculation was drawn from an analysis of U.S. hospital records concerning nearly 3 million pediatric patients who were discharged from more than 3,400 hospitals in 2003. Of these, nearly 2,800 had received medical care for airway obstruction brought on by a foreign body, which in 42 percent of the cases was a food item.

The average age of these choking patients was just over 3, although more than half of the children were under 2.

Every year, about 2.5 million American children experience a choking incident after consuming a foreign substance of some kind, the authors noted, resulting in more than 2,000 deaths, mostly among children under age 3.

"Parents should be aware of these facts and take precautions," Shah said. "What can you do to prevent this? Cut your child's food up into really small pieces. It drives my wife crazy. She'll cut the grapes into halves and quarter
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