Baby and 2-year-old choke to death

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 August, 2004, 12:00am

In separate incidents, a newborn is found unconscious after milk feeding and an infant dies after gagging on juice

A 10-day-old boy died after apparently choking on milk at his home in Lok Ma Chau yesterday.

Separately a two-year-old boy died in Causeway Bay, reportedly after choking on orange juice.

The infant's mother, 25, found him lying unconscious in bed about 5am in their house in Fung Kong Tsuen, in Ma Tso Lung Road, Lok Ma Chau. He was declared dead in North District Hospital shortly after 6am.

His mother, a mainlander on a two-way permit, told officers that her son went to sleep after being fed milk about 1am. Police said the woman and her son slept in the same bed but there were no signs that the boy had been crushed.

'We were told by doctors that the baby died of suffocation. Preliminary medical findings showed milk blocked the boy's trachea. There is no indication of foul play,' a police officer said.

The officer believed the baby choked on milk.

The baby, born in Hong Kong, had not yet been given a name. He lived with his parents and a six-year-old sister in the house.

His father and sister are Hong Kong residents. His father was on the mainland, where he works, yesterday.

In the second case, the two-year-old boy was seen choking on orange juice about 10.30am, and police were called.

Nurses gave him first aid before he was taken to Ruttonjee Hospital, where he was declared dead. Police said there were no suspicious circumstances.

The boy lived with his parents in the newcomers' ward of the Po Leung Kuk, in Link Road, Causeway Bay. A Po Leung Kuk spokesman said his parents were informed of his death.

Godfrey Chan Chi-fung, associate professor of paediatrics at the University of Hong Kong, said: 'It is extremely rare that a normal child will die from choking on milk.

'The swallowing reflex involves the epiglottis covering the trachea, so food goes into the oesophagus. There may be a problem with this reflex if the neurological functioning of the child is affected, as in sufferers of cerebral palsy.'

He said breastfeeding was very safe and parents should choose a feeding bottle with a small opening in the nipple so babies were not fed too much at once.

Dr Chan advised parents not to feed a crying baby, as food may follow the air passageway, the trachea.

Hon Kam-lun, paediatrician at Chinese University, warned parents about the danger of vomiting.

'Aspiration of food into the lung after vomiting can cause pneumonitis, or acute respiratory distress syndrome' he said.

Dr Hon also said that hypoxic damage, lack of oxygen, from a blocked trachea could cause sudden infant death.

He advises parents to take their child to a doctor if he or she suffers from gastroenteritis or continued vomiting as the consequences can be serious.

He said that a baby choking on food might be the result of another disorder, a disruption of the heart rhythm for instance.