Intermountain Healthcare

Intermountain Primary Children's Physicians Warn of Child Choking Dangers Following Alarming Number of Incidents


Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 12/13/2020 --A warning about the dangers of choking hazards is going out to parents as Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital physicians see 32 alarming emergencies this year involving young children, one includes a 22-month-old from Morgan.

People often think of choking as food getting stuck in a child's upper throat, but doctors note there are several ways a child's airways can become obstructed. In fact, choking is one of the leading causes of unintentional death for children under five.

Albert Park, MD, a pediatric ear, nose, and throat specialist at University of Utah Health and Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital, says doctors often see small items lodged further down a child's airway that end up blocking off a lung. The 32 incidents so far this year resulted in emergency surgeries to remove various objects from the children's airways.

"When an object gets lodged in the airway, the only way to get it out is with emergency surgery to quickly remove the blockage," said Dr. Park. "If the object is large enough to completely block the airway it is a very dangerous, life-threatening situation."

Some of the most dangerous choking hazards come from what doctors call high-risk foods for kids like nuts, seeds, hard candy, and especially beans. Dr. Park says dry beans are especially bad because once they get wet the bean can expand as they absorb water.

Dr. Park urges parents to be extra vigilant with young children and objects they can put in their mouths.

"The best preparation is prevention," said Dr. Park. "Be aware of the dangers and prevent them."

Here are some recommendations for parents:

– Safe proof your house from small objects. Before they even begin to crawl, look for things that could be picked up and put in your child's mouth. Parents can even get down on a child's level – checking in and under furniture.

– Supervise your children. You never know what could happen when you are not looking. If a child chokes on an object, the object stuck in their throat is not allowing oxygen to reach the brain. It only takes four minutes or less before brain damage or even death can occur.

– Be aware of other objects that can cause possible choking hazards. Young children naturally put things in their mouth. Watch for balloons, coins, marbles, toys with small parts, hair barrettes, beads, small balls, pen caps, and button batteries.

Parents should also be prepared if you find your child choking. In the event of an emergency call 911 immediately – with airway obstruction time is critically important.

About Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital
Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital is part of Intermountain Healthcare, a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. For more than 95 years, Primary's have served over 1 million children living in a 400,000 square-mile service area including Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, and Alaska. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs.