May 4, 1984

Childhood Asphyxiation by FoodA National Analysis and Overview

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Hygiene and Public Health (Mrs Baker), and the Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine (Dr Smith), Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. Ms Harris and Dr Harris served as independent research consultants, Falls Church, Va.

JAMA. 1984;251(17):2231-2235. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340410039029

Data on all identified food-related asphyxiations of infants and children aged 0 to 9 years in 41 states from 1979 to 1981 were analyzed by type of food and age of child. Nationally, one death occurred approximately every five days. More than 90% occurred in infants and children younger than 5 years and 65% in infants younger than 2 years. Round foods were most often mentioned of the 103 foods specifically identified on death certificates. Most frequently cited were hot dog products (17 cases, 17%), candy, ten; nuts, nine; and grapes, eight. Hot dogs caused deaths from infancy through 3 years (more than two thirds of all deaths from meat products) and seven of ten deaths in 3-year-olds. Characteristics of foods, children, and environment can be related to three phases of food asphyxiation: penetration, occlusion, and expulsion. Preventive measures include product modification, warning labels, and dissemination of information on high-risk foods.

(JAMA 1984;251:2231-2235)