Choking occurs when breathing is impeded by a constricted or obstructed throat or windpipe. In some cases the air flow is completely blocked, in other cases some amount of air can pass to the lungs. Insufficient oxygen being delivered to the body will result in oxygen deprivation. Although oxygen stored in the blood and lungs can keep a person alive for several minutes after breathing stops, this sequence of events can lead to death. Choking was the fourth most common cause of unintentional injury-related death in the US in 2011.
Choking is often caused by an object from outside the body, also called a foreign body, blocking the airway. The object can block the upper or lower airway passages.The airway obstruction is usually partial, but can also be complete.
Among children, the most common causes of choking are food, coins, toys, and balloons. In one study, peanuts were the most common object found in the airway of children evaluated for suspected foreign body aspiration. Foods that pose a high risk of choking include hot dogs, hard candy, nuts, seeds, whole grapes, raw carrots, apples, popcorn, peanut butter, marshmallows, chewing gum, and sausages.The most common cause of choking death in children is latex balloons. Small, round non-food objects such as balls, marbles, toys, and toy parts are also associated with a high risk of choking death because of their potential to completely block a child's airway.
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