Study: 34 children treated for food-related choking a day


NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. (WKTV) - A new study shows the equivalent of 34 children are treated for food-related choking a day.

"When that number was thrown out, that was definitely an awakening moment," said Dr. Shravanti Halpern of St. Elizabeth Medical Center.

The study was published this month in the journal, Pediatrics, and was conducted in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The statistics include children 14 and under, but those most at risk are under the age of four. While the study focused on non-fatal cases, the consequences can still be serious. Children may have to undergo invasive procedures and can suffer brain damage after three minutes without oxygen.

The number one culprit is hard candy, but other high-risk foods include hot dogs, grapes, gumballs, nuts and seeds. Dr. Shravanti Halpern at St. Eizabeth Medical Center says you should steer clear of these foods entirely, but in the case an accident does occur, it's important to know how to react.

"If it's a small infant you can hold it on your arm and just pat the back face down, just pat the back a little bit or if it's a bigger kid then cross your knee and pat the back a little bit. Let gravity act also," said Dr. Halpern.

"When it becomes a complete obstruction and they're turning blue and not able to get enough air then immediate action has to be taken. Up until that point the most efficient and effective way of clearing an airway is to let them clear it themselves," said Dan Broedel, Project Manager at Faxton St. Luke's EMS Training Center.

Doctors say the best thing parents can do is learn how to perform CPR in case a child becomes unresponsive. The muscles relax and you can usually get oxygen into their system. The Faxton St. Luke's EMS Training Center in New Hartford handles about 100 choking cases a year and they hold classes to teach life-saving techniques.

"It's life-saving that will make the difference between someone's life and death and it may very well be your kid," said Broedel.

There are also common mistakes experts say to avoid, such as having your child drink water when choking, performing the Heimlich maneuver on a child that is too small, and using the finger sweep technique.

"Never stick your fingers into a mouth unless you actually see an obstruction in a child or infant, otherwise you're going to push it back farther," said Broedel.

The Faxton St. Luke's EMS Training Center in New Hartford holds CPR classes the first and third Tuesday of every month. You can contact them for more information: (315) 738-8351.

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