Is It Bad If My Child Swallows Popcorn Kernels?
Find the truth about questions that pique your curiosity in our new series, “The Short Answer.” Pediatric gastroenterologist Deborah Goldman, MD, answers this one.
A: Popcorn is generally considered a healthy snack food, given all of the candy and high-fructose containing snacks on the market.
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But be cautious when giving popcorn to kids — especially to very young children — due to the risk of choking. The American Academy of Pediatrics includes popcorn on its choking-risk list for children under age 4.
Older children and adolescents shouldn’t ingest large handfuls of the unpopped “old maid” kernels either. Besides being a choking hazard, crunching them can damage teeth. In severe cases, swallowing them can cause a mass collection in the intestinal tract, known as a “bezoar.” Small bezoars may pass on their own or with the help of medication, while sizeable ones may require surgery.
If your child develops abdominal pain after eating a large amount of unpopped kernels, call your pediatrician.
The bottom line: Don’t entice a young child with popcorn. And if you’re munching away, only eat those kernels that are fully popped.
— Pediatric gastroenterologist Deborah Goldman, MD