This Food Danger Happens More Often Than You Think

choking sign in restaurantHaving never known anyone who died as a result of choking on food, it still seems like one of those things that you only mostly worry about, especially when you have new eaters hanging around your house. Which is why I'm always telling my kids to chew, chew, chew when they shove a load of food in their tiny mouths. But somehow I still don't worry about choking as a "real" danger, especially not in public.

But clearly that was not the case for Robert Rippingale of New Zealand, who choked to death on his airline meal while flying from Singapore to Auckland, New Zealand to celebrate his mother's birthday. Yes, airline food finally became deadly. Even odder, there were CPR-trained nurses and a doctor on board who could not save the man from choking on his beef dinner. Doesn't it seem that having actual medical staff at your service should guarantee that choking only result in discomfort, not death?


I know mere mortals who have given the Heimlich and dislodged food from choking victims, and we see those posters in restaurants everywhere instructing the average Joe on how to save a life in the event of choking. How could three medical professionals not save this man, who was pronounced dead 90 minutes into the flight?

Apparently because choking to death can happen quite quickly. Shutting down the air supply can result in death within five minutes. That's not a lot of time to make sure everything is out of the way. By the time Rippingale's girlfriend noticed something was wrong, his lips had already turned blue. Perhaps the beef was also a poor choice, as chunks of meat are often the cause of choking deaths. And approximately 3,000 people die each year from choking in the United States, which is more than I would have thought. 

So lesson learned. Chew, chew, chew, and be especially careful if you have dentures. Apparently that is also part of the problem when people choke to death. And don't wait to act if you see someone in distress during mealtime. Every minute counts.

Have you ever saved someone from choking?

Image via Compliance Signs

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