Identifying choking hazards can be important not just for children but for the elderly and adults as well. We seem to think that only small children are prime targets for choking, but even us adults need to avoid some choking hazards. This can be magnified as we age since many elderly people can have diminished swallowing ability, not to mention potentially limited coughing strength. I personally lost a grandfather to choking since he had a lung removed due to cancer and could not expel a lodged piece of food. We here at HPFY can give you some tips for avoiding potential choking hazards so we or a loved one doesn’t choke on food.
We always hear that small children and toddlers are putting things in their mouths that can be choking hazards, but common everyday food items can put the elderly at risk of choking. When planning get-togethers that may include our elderly loved ones, care should be taken to avoid foods that are tougher to eat, such as steak, popcorn, or peanut butter.
While the type of food elderly folks may eat contributes to choking hazards, they often have dry mouths due to a lack of saliva from aging or even from certain medications they may be taking. Often, elderly folks turn to hard candy or lozenges to keep the saliva train going, and since digesting food is difficult without saliva, there is the Catch-22 since hard candy is a choking hazard in and of itself. Quite a conundrum!! According to Injury Facts, choking is the 4th-leading cause of cause of unintentional injury or death. Of the approximately 3,000 people who died from choking in 2020, 1,430 were older than 74, and food is often the cause.
It’s not always the types of food that we eat that can be choking hazards. Who hasn’t had popcorn be a choking hazard? Many suffer from physical ailments that can be risk factors when it comes to choking.
Some risk factors in the elderly that can lead to choking are:
Not only can food textures and risk factors be choking hazards they can also lead to other troublesome medical events such as aspiration pneumonia. This is a type of lung infection that occurs when ingested food/water, or liquids enter the lungs. Often, patients with dementia, dehydration, and dysphagia can be affected by aspiration pneumonia. As you can imagine,…not good!! Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia can include coughing constantly before/after drinking, clearing the throat after drinking, wet sounding voice, and eyes watering after drinking.
When creating a meal that may be enjoyed by someone older, it’s best to utilize a menu that is easier to eat and swallow. Yes, popcorn is a choking hazard on movie night!! So what foods would make a better choice? These can include:
Yes, the foods we eat can contribute to everyday choking hazards but also our actions can contribute to avoiding choking hazards. If we follow some simple dos and don’ts, we can minimize choking hazards. Try these simple eating behaviors to minimize the risk of choking:
Avoiding everyday choking hazards can require a little forethought and planning. Another great tool to have is CPR or Heimlich trained just in case an elderly loved one gets overzealous and eats too much or too fast. It’s all too easy to choke on food as we age, so it’s important to be diligent.
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Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.
In 2006, ...
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