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October 30, 2013

Halloween Candy and Choking-Related Incidents Among Children

Halloween Candy, The choking hazard in your living roomIt’s that time of year again when there’s just no getting away from those candy bowls. I know the offices here at HSI are filled with gum, chocolates, hard candies, and more.

But no one is as vulnerable to the seasonal treats as the kids they’re intended for, and that can lead to problems more serious than simple overeating.

A study published July 20, 2013 in the journal Pediatrics looks at nonfatal food choking incidents among children 14 years or younger in the U.S.

    • An estimated 111,914 children ages 0 to 14 years were treated in US hospital emergency departments from 2001 through 2009 for nonfatal food-related choking, yielding an average of 12,435 children annually and a rate of 20.4 visits per 100 000 population.
    • The mean age of children treated for nonfatal food-related choking was 4.5 years.
    • Children aged ≤1 year accounted for 37.8% of cases
    • Male children accounted for more than one-half (55.4%) of cases.
    • Of all food types, hard candy was most frequently (15.5% [16 168 cases]) associated with choking, followed by other candy (12.8% [13 324]), meat (12.2% [12 671]), and bone (12.0% [12 496]).
    • Most patients (87.3% [97 509]) were treated and released, but 10.0% (11 218) were hospitalized, and 2.6% (2911) left against medical advice. 

This Halloween, are you prepared to come to the aid of a child in an emergency?

Choking can occur when a solid object enters a narrowed part of the airway and becomes stuck. Young children are particularly at risk for choking because of the small size of their air passages, inexperience with chewing, and a natural tendency to put objects in their mouths.

On inhalation, the object can be drawn tighter into the airway and block air from entering the lungs. A forceful thrust beneath the ribs and up into the diaphragm can compress the air in the chest and “pop” the object out of the airway. Direct compression of the chest over the breastbone can also create enough pressure to expel an object.

An emergency care provider must be able to recognize the difference between a mild blockage and a severe blockage.

With a mild blockage, a child can speak, cough, or gag. This type of blockage is typically cleared by coughing. Encourage a child with a mild blockage to cough forcibly. Stay close and be ready to take action if things worsen.

When a severe blockage occurs, a child cannot dislodge the object on her own. Signs of severe obstruction include very little or no air exchange, lack of sound, and the inability to speak or cough forcefully. The child may hold her hands to her throat as she attempts to clear an obstruction naturally.

See our June 21, 2013 blog for more information on abdominal thrusts and a video clip from one of our programs.

Please note: Abdominal and chest thrusts can cause internal injury. Anyone who has been treated for choking with these maneuvers should be evaluated by EMS or a physician to ensure there were no injuries.

To help prevent choking, Kidshealth.org has some tips to keep in mind during all the upcoming treat-filled holidays:

    • Encourage kids to sit when eating and to chew thoroughly. Teach them to chew and swallow their food before talking or laughing.
    • Be especially vigilant during adult parties, when nuts and other foods might be easily accessible to small hands. Clean up promptly and carefully, and check the floor for dropped foods that can cause choking.
    • Never let kids run, play sports, or ride in the car with gum, candy, or lollipops in their mouths.

Ready to give yourself a treat and learn a few tricks at a first aid, CPR, and AED class near you?

Find A Class, ASHI, MEDIC First Aid  

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