Memorial Day Weekend 2018: Experts Warn of Hot Dog Choking Hazards

One woman explained how she lost her son in a tragic accident.

Original Air Date: July 2, 2015

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer and as the grills get fired up and food is devoured across America, it's important to be mindful about the choking hazard presented by a hot dog. 

Joan Adler recounted to Inside Edition the despair she felt as her 4-year-old son Eric began choking on a hot dog in 2001.

"I just said, 'Oh please God, have him breathe,'" she said. "They tried to save him and rush him to the hospital and that's where he was declared dead."

And young Eric isn't the only one.

In 2013, 28-year-old teacher Maureen Oleskiewicz was watching a Chicago Cubs baseball game at Wrigley Field when she choked on a hot dog and passed out. She died a few days later when she was removed from life support.

Then in 2014, Walter Eagle Tail, 47, reportedly died after choking on a hot dog during a Fourth of July competitive eating event in Custer, S.D.

"He probably just suffocated," Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler told the Rapid City Journal at the time. "It got lodged in his throat and [paramedics] couldn't get it out."

Experts say eating hot dogs can be even more dangerous for children.

"Hot dogs are the number one cause of food choking in children under 3," former ABC News chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser, told Inside Edition. "The end of a hot dog, it's about the size of a young child's main airway, so if they eat that, it can form a plug and block the airway."

Dr. Besser outlined what you should do if you witness someone choking on a hot dog.

"If they are able to talk to you and if they are able to cough, don't do anything," he said. "Call 911, someone can come and help clear their airway.

"If they can't talk or they give the universal sign of choking, then you want to lean them over, give them five hard back blows and then you want to reach behind them and give them five abdominal presses, the Heimlich maneuver."

To avoid choking while eating, he recommends parents either cut hot dogs the long way into smaller pieces or dice them up to make it easier for children to swallow.

Adler, who lost her son in 2001, added: "We're coming in to the summer season and I know a lot of people barbecue hot dogs. Just be careful when you are serving the little ones."