Hot Dogs and Common Sense

boy eating hot dogSo the American Academy of Pediatrics just came out with a statement that–gasp!–hot dogs (and hard candy, peanuts/nuts, seeds, whole grapes, raw carrots, apples, popcorn, chunks of peanut butter,
marshmallows, chewing gum, and sausages)  pose a choking hazard to young children.

Maybe about a dozen children a year die from choking on hot dogs. So the AAP would like hot dog manufacturers to put warning labels on their products and consider changing the wiener’s shape so they pose less of a risk to young children.

I honestly do not know where to start.

My oldest child  just turned 23 and my youngest just turned 14; maybe I’m too old a mother to understand these pronouncements. But you know what. . .I just don’t care. I still have to ask the question that I’m sure will get me flamed:

Are you insane????

When I was a “baby” parent of just 23 myself the rule was. . . common sense. I didn’t feed my 1-year-old a hot dog or individual grapes because — duh! — they were about the same thickness as his windpipe. Instead, I would dice up the sausage-like meat or fruit into tiny, fingernail sized chunks he could pick up and eat, but couldn’t suck down his windpipe. No one told me this; it was just common sense!

I applied the same common sense as my three kids grew up. They never played with nor got near hanging ropes or cords from mini-blinds (and no, I never read the warnings, which didn’t even exist when my kids were young); were trained to wear a seat belt in much the same way they learned to put on their underwear before their pants; and knew that homework came first about the same time they learned how to use the remote. Soda as a regular drink? Potato chips as an after-school snack? Failing gym class?

Sorry. Not allowed.

I’m old school; I don’t bargain or argue with my kids. I simply give them a choice. .. and both are my choices. As my oldest once told me when I was kvelling about how well he turned out: “You scared me. Fear is a powerful motivator.” As my youngest said the other day when we were talking about why his best friend wouldn’t be able to come to his birthday party: “His mom is like you; she sticks to what she says when she punishes him.”

My point with this discussion? So much about good health relates to common sense. You don’t want your kid to die from a hot dog? Either don’t feed them to him until he’s old enough to chew them up well or dice them up in tiny pieces. You don’t want your kid to be 40 pounds overweight in the third grade? Cut out the sugared drinks, junk food, fried food, video games, television watching marathons and sign him/her up for soccer, basketball, baseball, etc. Or should we have labels on television sets and computers warning about the obesity-increasing potential of these appliances? Warning labels on Big Macs, sodas and chocolate cake?

The same philosophy applies to adults. You don’t want to spend your adult years going from one doctor to another for your heart disease/diabetes/skin cancers/arthritis/lung disease etc? Do all the commonsense things you know you should do.

Eat right. Exercise regularly. Don’t smoke. Use sunscreen.

Do those four things throughout your life and I guarantee you that you will be healthier than more than 70 percent of the current population.

It’s just common sense. No labels required.

12 Responses to “Hot Dogs and Common Sense”

  1. Jessica Johns Pool

    Love this post! I had exactly the same reaction to the AAP's pronouncement. Thanks for giving voice to my thoughts.

  2. Alison

    I so want to agree with you on this, but given the number of people in this country who are non-parental caregivers (nannies, babysitters, grandparents) for children, may have limited English skills, or are just harried and stressed from modern American life (2 parents, 2 jobs, 2 kids, a dog, a mortgage, etc.) and looking for a shortcut, I think anything that reminds people that this is unwise and prevents a tragedy is OK.

    Additionally, we took an infant/child CPR class when our child was a baby, and we learned that one of the reasons why hot dogs are such a choking hazard comes from their spongy texture–if they get caught in the windpipe, they just bend and flex with the windpipe, which makes them much more difficult to dislodge than something that is hard (such as a carrot or a cracker), which can be popped out with the Heimlich manuever.

    Just my 2 cents.

  3. Anonymous

    You know what they say about common sense: It ain't common.

  4. Toni Goldfarb

    I'm with “Anonymous” on this one; not everyone–not even CLOSE to everyone–knows these health and safety precautions or conscientiously follows them. How many injured or killed auto accident victims were wearing their seatbelts? Ditto for bike riders who weren't wearing their helmets. And how many people always use a thermometer to be sure their meat is fully cooked and salmonella-free?

    I'm not saying we need warnings on everything; I remember the Superman Halloween costume where the cape was labeled “Does not enable you to fly.” But I see no downside in requiring frankfurter producers to make an easy adjustment that could save kids' lives. Even super-conscientious parents can't keep their eyes on a child every second of the day. And that might be all it takes for a toddler to grab a hotdog off the picnic table.

  5. Beverly

    People who think we need these kinds of warnings are the same ilk who will grow up to win a Darwin Award (q.v.).

    Our parents had us buckle up for safety–they had the then-optional seatbelts installed in all their cars–but they let us ride bikes without any of the greaves and helmets and cuirasses the poor kids are forced to wear nowadays. Ah, the feeling of the wind in your hair! Freedom!

  6. Anonymous

    I'm not even going to tell you all the “commonsense” things I didn't know as a mother. Not everyone knows this stuff.

  7. Kara

    Well said, Deb! IMHO, this ridiculous hot dog issue is a symptom of a greater disease: the willingness of so many to reject personal responsibility. Companies feel pressured to put insultingly dumb warnings on their products in an effort to guard themselves against lawsuits from stupid people. I have clothing iron that says clearly on the bottom “Warning! May cause burns.” YA THINK?!!

    Too many parents also worry more about being their kids' friend instead of their caregiver, teacher, nurturer. I'm learning that there aren't many parents like mine, you or me left these days.

  8. Jake P.

    Deb, I'm glad you broke your rule and posted this on the EFA site. Great rant. You can't legislate common sense or good parenting.

    A friend of mine linked to the hot dog story on her Facebook page and I was flabbergasted to see several people in favor of it. My comment was that the day is coming that we're going to be required to wear football helmets and cover ourselves in bubble wrap.

  9. Debra Gordon


    Ranting is good! Don't EVEN get me started about today's parents and their method of parenting!

  10. Linda

    As I said one time to my seven year old, you don't have to like me, you just have to do what I say.

    Indeed, what has happened to common sense. And there is that old school of thought that one shouldn't be giving kids hot dogs anyway–nitrates or whatever. I don't think my kids had soda until they were pre-teen. But, I rant.

  11. Alisa Bowman

    Pretty soon we'll have a warning label on everything. Glass jars will come with labels that say, “Warning, this could break and cut you.” Or and toilet seats will have a warning label that you could drown if you submerge your head in the toilet water. Perhaps microwaves should come with a label that says: “Do not insert live animals inside or they will blow up.”

  12. Trisha Wooldridge

    Sooooo true!!

    Tho' I'm HIGHLY entertained by the peanut packages that say, “May contain nuts.” Realllly?

    The late, great George Carlin had a good rant about this, too. I fear the lack of natural selection is increasing the number of genetic mutations that block out our common sense.

    Thanks for the laugh!


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