Kids' lunch can pack a dangerous punch

When you’re packing your kids’ lunches as they head off to day care or summer camp, remember that choking on food is one of the most common pediatric problems seen in emergency rooms today, says Dr. Pam Okada, a pediatrician at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

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. “The pediatric anatomy is perfect for choking,” Dr. Okada says. “Their airway is approximately the diameter of their pinkie finger.”

Lunchtime can hold dangers for teenagers, too, she added. Surprisingly, adolescents are at the highest risk for anaphylaxis, or severe allergic reaction.

“This group tries crazy things,” Dr. 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, Dr. Okada says.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/pediatrics  to learn more about UT Southwestern’s pediatric clinical services.

Media Contact: Robin Russell

Return to July 2011 News Tips

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