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Keywords:

  • asphyxia;
  • childhood;
  • choking;
  • safe feeding

Objective: To review local and overseas experience of food asphyxia in children and to examine aspects of safe childhood eating practices.

Methodology: Inpatient separation information data for childhood hospital admissions in South Australia were searched for episodes of food-induced airway obstruction and case records of the Department of Histopathology at the Women's and Children's Hospital were searched for cases of fatal food asphxia.

Results: While other forms of injury to young children appear to be declining in numbers, episodes caused by choking on food have remained relatively constant. The increase in average length of hospital stay (from 2.8 days in 1989-90 to 5.2 days in 1993-94) also suggests that the episodes have been more severe. Two fatal cases were also found.

Conclusions: Choking due to food inhalation is a problem with potentially fatal consequences. Young children are particularly at risk as they have immature dentition and control of swallowing, and lack experience of food. Although young children should avoid potentially dangerous foods such as raw carrot sticks and raw apples, certain currently available information packages for parents recommend these foods.