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Fact Sheet

October 24, 2002
Contact: CDC Injury Center Media Relations
(770) 488-4902

Nonfatal Choking-Related Episodes for Children 0 to 14 years of Age

Physical and developmental factors put children at risk for choking on food and nonfood substances says a CDC MMWR released today. Children choking run the risk of death, permanent brain damage caused by lack of oxygen, or other complications associated with airway blockage. In 2001, there were more than 17,000 visits to U.S. emergency departments for nonfatal choking in children 14 years and younger. The percentage of visits caused by different food and nonfood substances varied by age. CDC Injury researchers found that the rates are highest for children under 1 year, and decrease as children grow older. Parents and caregivers should be aware of choking hazards, keep a watchful eye on their children when they eat or play, and be familiar with ways to give first aid to a choking child.

Key findings include:

  • In 2001, an estimated 17,537 children 14 years and younger were treated in U.S. emergency departments for choking episodes -- more than 100 visits for every choking-related death.

  • 60% of these events were associated with food items, 31% were associated with nonfood objects including coins, and in 9% of the episodes the substance was unknown or unrecorded.

  • Candy was associated with 19% of all choking-related emergency department visits by children 14 years and younger. Of these cases, 65% were related to hard candy and 12.5% were related to other specified types (chocolate candy, gummy candy, chewing gum, etc.). The type of candy was not specified in the remaining 22.5% of cases.

  • Of children aged 14 years or younger treated in the emergency department for choking episodes in 2001, 10.5% were admitted to the hospital or transferred to a facility with a higher level of care.

Prevention Resources:

Additional information about the prevention and treatment of choking-related episodes is available online at:

This MMWR article is available online at:

For additional information from CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control visit:

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This page last updated October 24, 2002

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