Prevent your child from choking

LOS ANGELES In one nightmare case, an Orange County couple knew their son had accidentally swallowed some peanuts, but doctors kept telling them it was something else.

Just before his second birthday, Alex Itson was eating a piece of Snickers when he fell off a rocking chair.

"He was coughing, we were trying to make him cough and spit everything out and we thought he was fine," said Alex's mom Jaqui Itson.

But he was far from fine. An hour later, Alex started wheezing. They took him to the ER, but doctor saw nothing in his airways. The difficulty breathing persisted. They went to the ER again.

"The emergency doctor sent us home and said he had bronchitis," said Jaqui Itson.

Alex's airways were compromised and the Itsons couldn't get help. Two days later back at the hospital, doctors discovered one of Alex's lungs was over inflated.

"Then complications can set in including, the development of pneumonia, collapse of the lung and so on," said Dr. Ahuja.

Dr. Gurpreet Ahuja, from Children's Ears, Nose and Throat Surgeons of Orange County, sees everything from food to office supplies lodged in children's airways.

"The National Safety Council states there are about 2,900 deaths related to foreign body aspirations in children each year," said Dr. Ahuja.

Something he sees a lot of: button batteries. They're dangerous because once they're swallowed they discharge alkaline.

"That can be terribly destructive to the surrounding tissues," said Dr. Ahuja.

Back blows and chest thrusts can help dislodge anything stuck in an infant's throat. Call 911 if your child isn't breathing.

Most children who die of choking in this country are under the age of 12 months. That is why pediatricians say that it is so important for parents and caregivers to take a course in infant CPR.

"And I didn't even think about this little thing," said Stephanie Smith.

Smith's daughter swallowed a toy spoon.

"They put everyting in their mouth so just think twice," said Smith.

To minimize your child's choking risk, Dr. Ahuja says keep toys for older kids away from infants and get rid of small parts.

Kids under 4-years-old should sit while eating. Parents should cut up hot dogs and avoid hard candy, seeds or nuts.

Doctors surgically removed the peanuts from Alex's airways. His dad says what happened to Alex can happen to anyone.

"Next thing you know there it goes and it's just that fast," said Woody Itson.

Alex and the other young child in our story did not suffer any long lasting effects.

Dr. Ahuja says if an infant or toddler has something stuck in their airway and they're not gagging they may refuse food or drink or drool excessively. So that's something to look out for.


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