Frankfurters Cut the Wrong Way Can be Choking Hazard for Kids

Amy Haneline wrote . . . . . . . . .

Summer is already filled with enough hazards to stress out parents — we’re looking at you, open water and fireworks.

But what about your kids’ plates?

Summer is peak hotdog season. Considering 150 million franks are consumed on the Fourth of July in the United States alone, there is a strong chance they will be on the menu many a weekend.

So, now is a good time for a reminder that hotdogs can be serious choking hazards, said Dr. Tanya Altmann, author of Baby & Toddler Basics.

The size, shape and texture of hotdogs make them especially dangerous for young children, so the pediatrician is here to explain everything parents should know before handing a kid a dog.

“Hotdogs are long and round and when (young children) bite off a piece of it, it really looks kind of like a thick quarter and that is the perfect size to get lodged into a child’s throat,” Altmann said.

Any food that is “large, round and solid” can be a potential choking hazard, Altmann said.

That’s why hotdogs often rank at the top of lists of foods to avoid giving young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that hotdogs should be kept away from children younger than four years old.

Other potentially dangerous foods include whole grapes, hard or sticky candy, chunks of meat or cheese and popcorn.

Choking incidents among kids

In a 2013 study of choking incidents among young children, the AAP reported “choking is a leading cause of injury among children, and can sometimes be fatal.”

Researchers investigated non-fatal food-choking-related emergencydepartment visits among children ages zero to 14 years from 2001 to 2009. On average, 12,400 children (or 34 per day) were treated for a choking incident.

Hard candy caused most choking episodes (15 per cent), followed by other candy (13 per cent), meat other than hotdogs (12 per cent) and bones (12 per cent). Hotdogs accounted for 2.6 per cent of the cases.

At what age can a child eat a hotdog?

Parents can start introducing solid foods (except raw honey, which can harbour bacteria that causes foodborne illness in infants) to babies around six months of age, Altmann said. Parents should consider both the nutritional value and safety of a food when choosing their baby’s diet.

“If you wanted to mash up a hotdog into puréed or bite-sized pieces, theoretically you could feed it to an older infant or toddler, but I would argue it may not be nutritionally the best choice,” she said.

Cut hotdogs lengthwise first

All foods for babies and young children should be cut into one-centimetre or smaller pieces, the AAP recommends. However, cylindrical-shaped foods require extra care.

Thus, hotdogs should be cut lengthwise into strips first and then cut again into smaller pieces. The same goes for other common choking hazards such as grapes, cherries and cherry tomatoes.

For older kids who want to eat a hotdog while holding it, Altmann says parents could still cut the dog in half longways to help reduce choking risk.

When can parents stop cutting hotdogs for kids?

Usually around age four is when the choking risk is reduced because children are a little more aware, their throats are a little bit bigger and they are able to handle things that need to be chewed a little more before they swallow them, Altmann said.

What to do in a choking situation

“Make sure the child is really choking,” Altmann said. If a child is coughing or talking, there’s a chance the child can push the food out on his or her own.

But look for the following signs of a choking child: being unable to breathe; gasping or wheezing; unable to talk; turning blue; grasping at their throat; waving their arms; appearing panicked; and going limp or unconscious.

If a child is choking, call 911 and start a rescue procedure such as back-blows for infants or the Heimlich manoeuvre for older kids.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press

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