Jacob Jenkins Chokes On A Grape At Pizza Hut: Ways To Reduce Childhood Risks Of Choking

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Jacob Jenkins chokes on a grape at Pizza Hut: Ways to reduce childhood risks of choking

Print Email >Ann Brasco | Parental Guidance By Ann Brasco | Parental Guidance The Star-Ledger

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on October 15, 2015 at 11:52 PM, updated October 15, 2015 at 11:53 PM

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18744507825_a51270a0e3_o.jpg>Whole grapes pose a serious choking risk to small children. flickr.com/photos/dinnerseries/18744507825 

Jacob Jenkins recently visited a Pizza Hut restaurant with his parents and choked on a grape. The two year-old was air lifted to a hospital. After five days in a coma, he has died.

As a sign of respect, The Pizza Hut location in England where Jenkins choked remained closed today.

The news of little Jacob's death reminds us of the fragility of life and summons us to consider what we can do, as parents and caregivers to reduce to the risk of choking amongst our little ones. 

Some parents may boast that they ate many foods identified as choking hazards as they grew up and are fine. They may be correct. 

Most all of us with choke on something at some point in our lives, from eating too much or too quickly, from laughing or talking while chewing, a common cold, or for some other mysterious reason. Few of us will die. 

For the child or adult who does die, however, the fact that many others live will bring little comfort to that family. For the child who suffers brain damage, an infection or requires a bronchoscopy from choking, statistics may seem of little relevance.

Over 12,435 children annually, or 34 children daily, are rushed to hospitals for choking emergencies. In the words of Maya Angelou, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."

Studies tell us what foods pose a much greater risk to our little ones. We know that the risk of death from choking is largely proportionate to the child's age. Research indicates that 60% of non-fatal choking cases involved food while 31% involved coins, batteries, small toys, or various non-food-related items.

Here are additional ways we can keep our children safe:

1. Avoid high risk foods. High risk foods include hot dogs, nuts and seeds, chunks of meat or cheese, whole grapes, popcorn, raisins, chewing gum, marshmallows, hard candy, sticky or gooey candy, round lollipops, chunks of peanut butter, and raw vegetables.

If you decide to let a child eat a hot dog, cut it length-wise and then into small pieces. Thin peanut butter with applesauce. Quarter grapes. Steam vegetables prior to serving. Cut food into small pieces. I cut up food like a Hibachi chef.

2. Set rules and stick to them. My five year-old constantly petitions me for chewing gum. She will argue as to why she can't chew gum when most of her friends at the playground chew gum.

Each parent has the liberty to set their own rules. I won't allow my daughters to dangle from the monkey bars with a choking hazard in their mouths. They can each throw a twenty-minute temper tantrum but no gum means no gum. It is my rule and I ask that they respect it.

3. Let others know your rules. If your child attends a preschool or daycare where snacks are shared, let them know if your child cannot have whole grapes or raw carrots. Let parents at playdates know your rules and ask that they abide by them.

4. Don't feed children in the car. Despite the temptation to quiet and calm young ones with treats and snacks, avoid feeding kids in the car. It is easy for a choking incident to go unnoticed by the driver. 

5. Make eating the sole activity during meal time. Sitting calmly at the dinner table can sometimes be challenging for young children. It is not a safe practice to let children walk around while eating. Encourage children to avoid jumping, playing, and focusing on other activities besides chewing while eating. Children can also be encouraged to sit upright and not slouched over or laying down. Never leave children unattended while they are eating. 

6. Beware of latex balloons. It is hard to leave a fair or birthday party without a latex balloon. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association December 1995 report, of the 373 children who died between 1972 and 1992 after choking on kid's products, nearly one third choked on latex balloons. Shiny foil balloons are preferable.

7. Get organized. Avoid leaving coins lying around. Secure batteries away in a safe place. Place the bowl of hard dog food particles off the floor and out of reach of infants and young children. Make sure small children do not play with the tiny toys of older children unattended.

8. Learn first aid. Get CPR certified. Learn the Heimlich Maneuver. If you are a parent, a caregiver, an occasional babysitter, or someone interested in the general safety of others, the information conveyed during this short training session may prove invaluable at some point later in life. 

9. Don't waste time. Know the signs of choking. If you ever find yourself in the position where a child is choking, act quickly. Call 911 immediately and then begin efforts to remove the object.

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