But what makes hot dogs so dangerous?
“Every food poses a choking risk in young kids but the hot dog has just the right size and consistency to perfectly block the airway, it’s the perfect plug that doesn’t allow any air to get through,” said Johns Hopkins Children’s pediatrician Nisha Kapadia, M.D., during a recent presentation at the hospital.
Therefore, pediatricians should remind all parents to mince or thinly slice hot dogs before giving them to young children, Kapadia said. Other high-risk foods, like hard candy, grapes and nuts, should be withheld completely from children younger than 4, she says.
Because food choking causes nearly one childhood death in the United States every five days, pediatricians urge heightened awareness about high-risk foods among doctors and parents alike.
Infants and young children under 3 years of age are particularly prone to food-choking because they don’t have a full set of teeth to chew and grind the food before swallowing. Children between 3 and 4 years of age have molars but are still learning how to chew. Children’s high level of activity also puts them at risk for inhaling food while playing or running around, Kapadia says.
In February, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for warning labels on foods that pose a choking hazard and for the creation of a national surveillance reporting system to monitor food-related choking incidents.
A 2001 analysis by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that 60 percent of the 17,537 non-fatal choking incidents seen in U.S. emergency rooms in children under 14 were caused by food, and 77 percent of these choking episodes occurred in children under the age of 3.
Founded in 1912 as the children’s hospital of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center offers one of the most comprehensive pediatric medical programs in the country, treating more than 90,000 children each year. Hopkins Children’s is consistently ranked among the top children’s hospitals in the nation. Hopkins Children’s is Maryland’s largest children’s hospital and the only state-designated Trauma Service and Burn Unit for pediatric patients. It has recognized Centers of Excellence in dozens of pediatric subspecialties, including allergy, cardiology, cystic fibrosis, gastroenterology, nephrology, neurology, neurosurgery, oncology, pulmonary, and transplant. For more information, please visit www.hopkinschildrens.org
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