Summer, a time when barbecues, picnics and camping are frequent events, has finally arrived. With the fun of these activities come a few safety concerns. This is the first in a series of tips to help you safely enjoy your favorite summer activities.

How many times did your mother tell you, “Don’t talk with food in your mouth.”?

It turns out this is more than just good manners. Choking causes more than 100,000 visits to the ER yearly and is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death.

There are many causes of choking, including talking while we eat. Food and air share the same part of the throat for a short distance until it divides into two: the esophagus and the trachea (windpipe).

When we eat, a small flap called the epiglottis covers the trachea so the food will go down the esophagus and not the windpipe. If it goes down the windpipe, you will choke.

Click here to see how the epiglottis works.

Here are a few other tips to help avoid choking:
  • Chew every mouthful until the food is small and soft enough to swallow.
  • Take small bites and sit down while you are eating.
  • Don’t talk or laugh with your mouth full.
  • Exert extra care eating nuts, grapes, raw vegetables, popcorn and hard or gooey candy.