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When Can Kids Have Hot Dogs?

by Sara Ipatenco

Most children adore hot dogs and most parents rely on the meat product as a quick meal they know their child will actually consume. Though hot dogs are fine for older children to eat, proceed with caution if you have a baby, toddler or preschooler. When hot dogs aren't prepared correctly, they pose a serious choking hazard.

Children and Hot Dogs

Your child is physically capable of chewing a hot dog as soon as he has several teeth, but that doesn't mean that serving your child a whole hot dog is safe. Regular hot dogs should be off limits for young children because they pose a choking risk. In fact, hot dogs are the top food cause of choking in children under the age of 3, according to Johns Hopkins Children's Center. A total of 17 percent of all choking cases are due to hot dog inhalation, the Johns Hopkins Children's Center also reports.

Appropriate Age

Children under the age of 4 should never eat hot dogs in their whole form. These children should also never eat a hot dog that has been sliced into rounds. If your child has yet to have any teeth erupt, you should also consider keeping hot dogs off the menu for the near future. The texture of a hot dog, even in very small pieces, makes it hard to gum, so waiting until your child has his back molars can help cut down on the risk of choking. This usually happens by the time your baby is 18 months old, according to a 2010 article published in "Pediatrics."

Preparation

The size and shape of a hot dog makes it perfect for getting lodged in your child's airway and lead to choking. Once your child gets her back molars and is able to chew more effectively, you can serve hot dogs, but only if they're prepared correctly. Cut your child's hot dog in half and then cut each half in half again. Slice each of the quarters into small pieces before giving them to your child.

Additional Considerations

If your child regularly gags on his food, consider holding off on hot dogs even if he has his back molars. A high gag reflex can increase the risk of choking no matter how small a food is. Also consider the ingredients in hot dogs before determining when to serve them to your child. Most hot dogs contain sodium nitrates or nitrites, which aren't good for your little one. These ingredients can increase your child's lifetime risk of cancer, according to the Duke Health website. The high amounts of saturated fat and sodium aren't good for your child either and can increase his lifetime chances of heart disease and high blood pressure.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

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