Hidden Dangers: Children, Choking, and Toys

February 12th, 2013 posted by Family Corner Staff

Children, Choking, and Toys

lego Children of all ages, not just babies, can choke on toys or other foreign objects. CHAPEL HILL: While watching TV one day, 8-year-old Lee Wright of Shallotte, North Carolina was toying with a small Lego piece in his mouth when it suddenly slipped down his airway. “He started coughing and ran into the kitchen and told me he had swallowed the Lego,” said Renee Wright, Lee’s mother. “He continued coughing and trying to clear his throat, and finally he began to wheeze.” Wright rushed her son to a nearby community hospital where physicians could not detect the object on X-rays, but they could hear it rattle as Lee breathed in and out. Doctors referred the Wrights to North Carolina Children’s Hospital at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. There, Dr. Amelia Drake performed a bronchoscopy and retrieved the Lego, which had lodged in the right main bronchus leading into Lee’s lung. “Lee’s case is not uncommon. Older children are often careless with toys and pieces of food,” Drake said. “However, the younger child is more at risk of choking because of the lack of teeth in the back of the younger child’s mouth.”

Here are some simple steps a parent can take to help prevent a child from inhaling or swallowing foreign objects:

  • Do not allow young children to play with small objects.
  • Teach children not to hold foreign bodies in their mouths.
  • Cut or break food into bite-size pieces, and encourage children to chew their food thoroughly.
  • Encourage your child to sit while eating food or candy and do not allow him or her to eat in a moving car.
  • Do not offer popcorn, nuts or foods with nuts to toddlers or pre-schoolers.
  • Keep safety pins closed and away from children.
  • Purchase only age-appropriate toys.

Drake said that parents should seek immediate medical attention should a child demonstrate any of the following warning signs that a foreign object has lodged in his airway:

  • He is choking, cannot clear his airway spontaneously or struggles to breathe.
  • He persistently coughs or wheezes or otherwise makes unusual noises while breathing.
  • There is swelling or tenderness in his neck region.
  • He refuses to eat.
  • He persistently drools or drools saliva tinged with blood.

“Vomiting and fever also can be signs that a child may have swallowed a foreign object,” Drake said. “Parents should definitely be aware of these warning signs for early detection and removal.”

This informative article was brought to you by Aubrey Antley of UNC Health Care.

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