OSF neurologist: Beware of holiday choking hazards

ROCKFORD — If you go over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house with your young children during the holidays this year, a doctor with OSF HealthCare says the house must be properly childproofed and free of choking hazards once you get there.

Dr. Sarah Zallek is a neurologist who has seen what the lack of oxygen to the brain can do to a person. She says six minutes is how long the brain can last without oxygen, but there can be some damage in less time than that.

Dr. Zallek says it’s easy for a person to get distracted running around doing all you have to do during this time. But everything that makes the holidays festive – the decorations, food, and family – can also lead to tragedy for your toddler if you’re not vigilant.




Every year there are tragic stories of children dying or suffering permanent brain injury because they put something in their mouth and it causes an obstruction to their airway. According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, nearly 90 percent of injuries and deaths from airway obstructions are in children ages four and under, with most of those happening at home. There are more than 22,000 emergency room visits nationally each year from such injuries.

It’s important to be even more vigilant during the holidays when you may be visiting friends and family who might not be as vigilant as you – or aren’t used to the curiosity of a young child.

Zallek recommends taking few minutes during this busy time to remind family members about preventing airway obstructions and how to identify high-risk situations. R.

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