Keep choke hazards out of reach of children, Chennai doctors say

Nuts, button batteries, seeds and beads are some of the household items doctors have warned parents to be careful about

Last month, doctors at a children’s hospital in Chennai saw their youngest patient with food stuck in the airway -- a four-month-old baby, who was fed a peanut by a three-year-old sibling. Paediatricians say nuts are a complete no-no for children aged less than five years. Also, objects such as button batteries and beads should be kept out of reach of children due to the danger of choking that they present.

Every year, the Institute of Child Health (ICH) and Hospital for Children receives 40 to 50 children with ‘foreign bodies stuck in the airway’. The majority of them are in the age group of one to two years; a stage when children are starting to explore things. Though extremely rare, they have also received a few cases of babies aged 0 to 6 months.

“In the majority of cases, it is peanuts that get caught in the airway. ‘Sapota’ seeds and button batteries. The latter is very dangerous and can erode the insides. Parents should immediately suspect foreign body ingestion if the child has a sudden onset of cough and breathing difficulty,” said Rema Chandramohan, director of ICH.

At Kanchi Kamakoti CHILDS Trust Hospital (KKCTH), where S. Thirunavukkarasu, consultant - paediatric ENT and airway surgeon, used telescopic forceps to remove the peanut from the airway of the four-month-old baby, a total of 384 children have been treated over the last five years for aerodigestive tract (nose, throat, airway and foodpipe) foreign bodies.

“While peanuts are the most common in cases involving the airway, we are seeing a high number of children who have swallowed button batteries that are caught in the digestive tract, of late. This is because of access to gadgets and toys that have button batteries. When these batteries come in contact with saliva, they could start leaking an alkaline solution. This is dangerous and should be removed immediately,” he said.

S. Balasubramanian, medical director of KKCTH, said nuts, hard candies, fruits with seeds such as grapes, sapota, or dates should not be given to children below five years. “Keep button batteries, small plastic whistles and beads of jewellery out of reach of children. Preventing accidents in children is important, and parents should be sensitised during health check-ups and dietary visits,” he said.

A. K. Koushik, assistant professor, medical gastroenterology, Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre, said awareness on seeking appropriate medical care was crucial to prevent complications. “If a child swallows a foreign body at 10 p.m., where will parents take him or her? If they take the child to a centre that is not equipped to handle such cases, the child could end up in surgery due to mismanagement,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 9:42:26 PM |

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