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Food Is a Common Choking Hazard for Kids, Doctor Says
Date:8/1/2014

FRIDAY, Aug. 1, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Although many parents worry about their children choking on small objects or toys, many overlook a common choking hazard: food.

Such was the case for 15-month-old Landon Jones who started to wheeze and cough after eating a handful of nuts.

"At the time, Landon had a cold so it was not obvious if the coughing was related to his illness or choking," recalled his mother, Ula Jones.

But, it wasn't a cold. A cashew had become lodged in his windpipe and had to be removed via surgery. Landon has fully recovered, but some children aren't so fortunate.

"Landon's situation is surprisingly common," his surgeon, Dr. Nina Shapiro, a professor of head and neck surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a university news release.

"In many kids, the food object passes down to their bronchi where it gets lodged and they present with coughing, wheezing, or even what might appear to be pneumonia. At first, it is not always clear that the child has had a choking incident," she said.

Researchers estimate that emergency rooms treat more than 10,000 kids a year for food-choking incidents. In some cases, the children die, the study authors noted in the news release. It is estimated that one child dies every five days due to such incidents, they added.

"Young children have underdeveloped swallowing mechanisms, immature teeth and narrow airways which put them at a higher risk for choking on food," said Shapiro, director of pediatric ear, nose and throat at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA. "Plus, the diameter of a child's airway is about the size of their pinky, so high-risk foods can easily block their tiny airways and prevent their ability to breathe."

Parents should be especially careful about these foods for kids under 5 years:

  • Cheese sticks
  • Chewing gum
  • Chunks of food (meat, cheese, peanut butter, raw ve
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