If you’re a busy mom like we are, chances are you’ve served your fair share of hot dogs to kids. And most of us know that hot dogs can be a choking hazard for little kids and you should always cut them into smaller pieces. (Cut them lengthwise and then into small pieces across.) But hot dogs made national news two weeks ago (reports were on the evening news on NBC, Time Magazine, and USA Today), and we all need to be aware of the dangers discussed in these reports.
The choking hazard is even worse than suspected, and we think it’s a good reason to keep on cutting up your kids’ hot dogs, even when they grow out of the toddler and preschool years. Experts are also calling on manufacturers to redesign the hot dog into a different shape and size to reduce the choking risk.
The doctor quoted below mentioned in a recent report that, in years past, lollipops were all round and hard and easily choked on by a child. Then a manufacturer came up with the redesigned “safety pops,” that are much better for kids and are often handed out after doctor appointments. We hope the same redesign efforts happen with hot dogs soon. In the meantime, here’s what you should know:
Last Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement on choking prevention for children, recommending (among other things), changes in government oversight of food choking hazards and asking food manufacturers to consider redesigning potentially dangerous food products, such as hot dogs and hard candies. …Between 66 to 77 children age 10 and younger die each year from food-related choking. According to one study cited in the report, 17% of food-related choking deaths involve hot dogs.
The following quotes are from Dr. Gary Smith, immediate past chairman of the Committee on Injury Violence and Poison Prevention at the American Academy of Pediatrics and lead author of the AAP policy statement just released:
“… If you were to take the best engineers in the world, and you said to them, ‘Design for me the perfect plug for a child’s airway,’ you couldn’t do better than a hot dog. Unfortunately, it’s exactly the right shape of the airway, it’s the right diameter — it forms a plug, completely sealing off the upper airway, right above the vocal chords. Because of its’ shape and size, and because it’s compressible, it wedges itself in. It’s almost impossible to dislodge.”
“Then it’s only a matter of minutes before there is irreparable brain damage and even death. As a pediatric emergency medicine physician, I can tell you, even if we are standing right there with all of our skill and experience, with all of the correct equipment and lighting, it’s really hard to get those objects out of a child’s airway once they’re wedged in like that. It’s almost impossible. That’s why preventing this from occurring in the first place is so important.”
“… If you have to give your child a high-risk food, let’s say it’s a grape, you can quarter a grape. Take away that high risk shape and size. If it’s a hot dog, cut it lengthwise, so you take away the high-risk shape and size.”