Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Choking Hazards

This article says that, each year in the USA, about 10,000 children are treated in emergency rooms for choking on food, and about 100 children die from choking on food.
This makes me wonder several things:
Are human infants uniquely vulnerable to choking?  Do we observe these kinds of problems in wild animals?
Did infants in earlier human societies have the same risk of choking?  Is this choking a problem related to modern diets and processed foods, or has it always been like this?
If choking has always been such a problem, why has natural selection not resulted in infants who are less likely to choke?
If it is only a recent problem, what has changed?  Could we solve the problem by feeding our children food that is closer to what a paleolithic child would have eaten?
It seems hard for me to imagine that modern diets would be such a larger choking hazard than paleo diets.  I know that children spent a lot more time nursing in early human societies, they still ate solid food, presumably the same nuts, berries, fruit, and meat that the rest of the tribe was eating.
Now that I write all this, I think I read somewhere that the shape of the human throat, which gives it the ability to make the wide range of sounds needed for speech, also makes it more likely to choke on food.  But still, choking can be reduced by changes in eating behavior and food choice, and those changes should be instinct by now.  Maybe the deaths from choking are so small, as a percentage, that there is not much selection pressure, compared to other things like diseases and famine that have haunted humans for most of our history.

1 comment:

NotanEster said...

it's not just small kids that choke; elderly have high risks of choking too.

(Do older wild animals have higher choking risk too?)