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Food choking hazards in child care
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study of choking episodes treated in hospital emergency departments during 2001. They found of the estimated 17,537 children aged 14 years old or younger who were treated for nonfatal choking, more than half (59.5%) were treated for food-related choking. Furthermore, the CDC report indicates that choking rates were highest among infants, and decreased consistently with increasing age. Almost one-third of choking episodes occurred among infants, and more than three-fourths occurred among children age 3 years or younger.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) outlines that choking on food poses an important and relatively under-addressed problem for U.S. children. Approximately 66 to 77 children younger than 10 years old die from choking on food each year in the United States. AAP further reports that choking is a leading cause of morbidity, and mortality among children, especially those who are 3 years old or younger.
Causes of food-related choking depend on a number of factors. According to the AAP, “Despite a strong gag reflex, a young child’s airway is more vulnerable to obstruction than that of an adult in several ways. The smaller diameter is more likely to experience signiﬁcant blockage by small foreign bodies. Resistance to air ﬂow is inversely related to the radius of the airway to the fourth power, so even small changes in the cross-section of the airway of a young child can lead to dramatic changes in airway resistance and air ﬂow. Mucus and secretions around a foreign body in the airway will reduce the radius of the airway even further and may also form a seal around the foreign body, making it more difﬁcult to dislodge by forced air, such as with a cough or Heimlich maneuver. The force of air generated by a cough in an infant or young child is less than that in an adult; therefore, a cough may be less effective in dislodging a complete or partial airway obstruction during early childhood.”
Steps to help reduce the likelihood of a food related choking event at your center include:
Nonfatal Choking-Related Episodes Among Children – United States, 2001. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 25 Oct. 2002./ Vol. 51/ No.42
The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.