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WMJ. 2000 Dec;99(9):43-6, 42.

Prevention of choking, strangulation, and suffocation in childhood.

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University of Wisconsin, Department of Pediatrics, Clinical Sciences Center, H6/4, 600 Highland Ave, Madison, WI 53792, USA.


Choking, suffocation and strangulation are important causes of unintentional injury and death in young children. Choking on food and toys, suffocation from plastic bags and strangulation from strings on children's items are common causes of mechanical airway obstruction. An effective prevention plan must include education, product labeling, and product and container modification. Health care providers can play an important role in the dissemination of prevention information to caregivers and manufacturers in order to reduce the incidence of these injuries in young children. In the United States, mechanical airway obstruction from choking, suffocation and strangulation is the leading cause of unintentional injury that results in death of children less than 1 year. It ranks fourth as a cause of death in children 1 to 9 years, surpassed only by motor vehicle injuries, drowning/submersion, and fire/burns. Many of these deaths are preventable. Prevention of death from mechanical airway obstruction has long been a concern of health care providers, whose role may involve education of parents, other caregivers and manufacturers about the risks and the prevention of choking, suffocation and strangulation in children. Choking is the interruption of respiration by internal obstruction of the airway, usually by food or small toys in young children. Suffocation is obstruction of the airway from an external object that blocks the nose and mouth, such as a plastic bag. Strangulation also results from external compression of the airway from an object, such as a string that becomes caught around the neck.

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