Maureen Oleskiewicz, a 28-year-old teacher , recently choked to death on a hot dog at Wrigley Field. Meat products, especially hot dogs, are a common choking hazard. Healthy adults are just as likely to choke on hot dogs or other meat products as young children or seniors.
It is not unusual to see an ambulance parked in front of a steakhouse to help a diner who is choking on a large chunk of meat. In fact, they have coined the term “café coronary” to describe these choking incidents. The symptoms are similar to a heart attack when in fact the diner is actually choking to death, usually on meat or fish. Choking incidents in steakhouses are so common, that until recently some states made it mandatory for restaurants to display posters with instructions on what to do when someone chokes.
In the U.S., close to 3800 people die every year from choking as reported by the American Heart Association. Choking usually occurs during eating and the most common specified food objects that victims choked on were meat products. In fact, meat accounts for 35% of choking incidents. According to the Journal of Forensic Science, death from choking is the fourth most common cause of unintentional-injury mortality.
Children are especially prone to airway obstruction. Choking on food causes the death of approximately 1 child every 5 days in the United States. Hot dogs are the most common food choking hazard for children. Hot dogs accounted for the largest percentage of food-related asphyxiations among children younger than 10 years of age in a 41-state study published in JAMA (Harris et al.). Children who choke on hot dogs are 2 to 3 times more likely to be hospitalized than children who choke on candy or other food items.
Most of the medical literature on airway obstruction is related to children, however, people of all ages are susceptible to choking incidents. A study in the UK showed that the 45 to 55 age group nearly doubled the choking emergencies of other age groups. In the UK, the most common cause of choking was fish, followed by meat and poultry.
For more information: