It is agonizing to think about what the family of Anthony Arriaga went through as they witnessed the four-year-old choke to death on a hot dog in January. The following is from an interview with KING 5 TV station in Seattle:
"When I turned around and looked at my child, he was just waving his hands on the table, pounding," said Marta Rodgriguez, Anthony’s mother.
Anthony started to turn blue. His uncle and two responding police officers first on the scene tried the Heimlich maneuver but they could not dislodge the hot dog.
"I immediately thought to myself I was not going to give up, I was not going to let him die, I was not going to let him go," said Vicente Arriaga, Anthony’s father.
Anthony did not make it. His parents, who do not speak English, say they never heard that hot dogs were a choking hazard for young kids.
As it turns out, choking is the most common cause of death in kids from 1 to 5 years of age, and choking on hot dogs causes 17 percent of those deaths. As a result of the problem, the American Academy of Pediatrics is pushing for better labeling on the risks of choking, if not outright redesign of the popular hot dog. In a recent article by Liz Szabo of the USA Today:
The academy would like to see foods such as hot dogs "redesigned" so their size, shape and texture make them less likely to lodge in a youngster’s throat. More than 10,000 children under 14 go to the emergency room each year after choking on food, and up to 77 die, says the new policy statement, published online today in Pediatrics. About 17% of food-related asphyxiations are caused by hot dogs.
"If you were to take the best engineers in the world and try to design the perfect plug for a child’s airway, it would be a hot dog," says statement author Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "I’m a pediatric emergency doctor, and to try to get them out once they’re wedged in, it’s almost impossible."
The Consumer Product Safety Commission requires labels on toys with small parts alerting people not to give them to kids under 3. Yet there are no required warnings on food, though more than half of non-fatal choking episodes involve food, Smith says.
"No parents can watch all of their kids 100% of the time," Smith says. "The best way to protect kids is to design these risks out of existence."