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When we think of summer, we associate it with fun activities like barbecues, swimming and sunbathing. But what we don’t usually think of are the hazardous airway scenarios that can occur during these happy times – especially with children. Educating yourself on the potential risks can help save your life and your summer!

Barbecue hazards


There are many common choking hazards people encounter during the summer. According to FamilyEducation, the top nine foods people typically choke on are:


  • Hot dogs
  • Carrots
  • Whole grapes
  • Apples
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Marshmallows
  • Gum and hard candy
  • Popcorn


Look familiar? Many of us are used to enjoying these foods during a summer barbecue or around a campfire. Some tips to minimize choking risks when munching on these common snacks include:


  • When preparing hot dogs for your children, cut the hot dog lengthwise, and then continue to cut it into irregular shapes. Round objects are easy to choke on, so cutting the hot dog into rounds will only increase the chances of the food getting stuck in your child’s airway.
  • You can make carrots and apples safer by finely chopping/shredding them or by cooking them until they are a soft, chewable consistency.
  • Aside from the allergy risk that can cause throat swelling, even if you or your child are not allergic to peanut butter, there is still a choking risk. Be sure that a large dollop of peanut butter is evenly spread on a cracker or bread and try to always have something to drink ready to go in case of a throat blockage.
  • Think twice before making that s’more! Marshmallows can easily get lodged in your or your child’s throat. Try using mini marshmallows or avoiding them altogether.
  • Those fun summer gumball machines may not be worth the risk. Avoid consuming these gumballs as the round shape makes it easier for someone to accidentally inhale it into their airway.
  • Thinking about going to a summer drive-in movie theater? Be careful when eating popcorn and take the extra time to chew before swallowing. Popcorn kernels can easily block your airway.


Heat-related airway hazards


The first thing people think of when the summer sun comes to mind is applying sunscreen to prevent sunburns. Yes, you should certainly do that, but you should also consider preparing for heat-related airway emergencies.


In a study done by the National Library of Medicine, scientists found that there is a direct correlation between elderly populations and heat-related emergency hospitalizations for respiratory diseases. The study showed that each Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled a list of people who are most at risk in the summer heat:


  • Infants and young children
  • People over the age of 65
  • People who are considered overweight
  • People who tend to exercise outside
  • People with illnesses, such as respiratory diseases


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have suggestions on how to beat the summer heat! The tips include:


  • Choose lightweight, breathable clothing
  • Stay cool indoors
  • Limit outdoor activity when the temperatures are dangerously high
  • Cut down on exercising in the heat
  • Don’t leave your children unattended in the car
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
  • Check your local news for weather updates


Swimming and airway hazards

Swimming is a summer activity that many enjoy, but whether you’re in a public pool or in the comfort of your backyard, there are risks. People with asthma, especially children, should be extra cautious when swimming. The National Library of Medicine has shared two main factors that can cause people with asthma to become injured when swimming. These include:


  • Exaggerated parasympathetic tone due to the 'diving reflex', that has been shown to trigger bronchoconstriction
  • Chlorine causing airway irritation


Summer is a time to relax, have fun and spend time with family. Don’t let this be the summer you can’t forget for the wrong reasons — take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe, healthy summer, free of airway emergencies.


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