According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child dies of choking about every five days in the U.S. alone. That is a scary statistic for parents, who typically wonder why kids are at such a high risk and what they can do to help.
Choking deaths have actually been on the decline in the United States over many decades, according to the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Safety Council. Across all ages, the all-time low is a rate of 1.42 deaths per 100,000 people in 2009, and that number was just slightly higher at 1.6 in 2017, the most recent year available.
Still, the risk remains, and some modern conveniences may be cause for concern.
Kids and adults alike tend to choke on food more often than other objects, and in today’s era of modern technology, many families report spending less time eating together around the table. A couple of standard pieces of advice any doctor will tell you about choking:
If your children often eat unsupervised or if they snack while lying on the couch, playing a game on a cellphone or watching a video on a tablet, they may indeed be at a higher risk of choking.
Kids have smaller windpipes and less control over chewing and swallowing compared with adults, so they are already at an increased choking risk. Pair this fact with our modern tendencies to stray away from the dinner table, and a choking emergency may be the result.
Choking prevention is all about knowing what to look out for and staying vigilant. Around the house, this means picking up small choking hazards frequently and teaching older kids to clean up their small toys to ensure their siblings’ safety.
Perhaps even more importantly, your family can work to develop good, safe eating habits. Talk to your whole family, even the young kids, about what choking is and how they can help. Make a rule that eating only happens at the table with parental supervision, while sitting still and upright. Discuss the importance of chewing your food and not eating too quickly. Also, get out of the habit of having mobile devices and media around while eating. (Good advice for all of us, not just kids!)Not only does this prevent against choking, but research also shows that time together around the dinner table is beneficial for lots of reasons, from better performance in school to lower risk of obesity to higher self-confidence. Plus, it’s just good manners, and what parent doesn’t want to pass that lesson along to their kids?
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