Don't pack a choking hazard in kid's lunch

July 20, 2011 at 2:00 AM
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DALLAS, July 20 (UPI) -- When packing a child's lunch, parents should remember choking on food is one of the most common pediatric problems seen in emergency rooms, a U.S. doctor warns.

Dr. Pam Okada, a pediatrician at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, says adults should avoid giving small children hot dogs, grapes, peanuts and chunks of apples and carrots. Toddlers lack molars and the coordination necessary to chew and swallow hard foods, she says.

"The pediatric anatomy is perfect for choking," Okada says in a statement. "Their airway is approximately the diameter of their pinkie finger."

Lunch can hold dangers for teenagers, too. Perhaps surprisingly, adolescents are at the highest risk for anaphylaxis, or severe allergic reaction, Okada says.

"This group tries crazy things," Okada says. "One study reported that teens purposefully eat food they know they're allergic to -- they think they've outgrown their allergy or they succumb to peer pressure to try foods they're allergic to."

Children and adolescents with food allergies should always carry an EpiPen, which contains a single dose of the medicine epinephrine, which they can quickly inject into their outer thigh to stop a severe allergic reaction. It's not fun, but it does the trick, Okada advises.

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