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College Student Dies After Choking During Pancake Eating Contest

A word of caution to anyone interested in trying out competitive eating for themselves: it can be dangerous and deadly.

Such was the case for Sacred Heart University student Caitlin Nelson, who died on Sunday after choking during a pancake eating contest for her sorority.

NY Daily News reported that Nelson began choking at the contest after eating four to five pancakes Thursday, and was almost immediately treated to by nursing students as paramedics arrived. Unfortunately, they were unable to clear her airway. She was later taken to a hospital, where she died three days later.

The pancake eating contest was part of a charity event for Greek Week at the university.

Sadly, this wasn’t the only death to occur during an eating challenge in the past week. KDVR reported that a young man in Denver also died after attempting to conquer a donut-eating challenge at Voodoo Doughnut, and also choking.

Denver-based competitive eater Bryan Beard told KDVR that people often overlook the dangers of such competitive eating conquests until after the fact.

“People don’t think about the hazards of an eating contest until it’s too late… I’ve choked to the point where I had to reach down and pull it out of my throat. Every competitive eater has choked. It happens.”

At officially sanctioned eating competitions, medical personnel are on staff to immediately help in case somebody does choke. At a local eating contest or challenge like the pancake eating contest or donut challenge, however, that’s not the case, and while medical help did arrive, it was too late in both instances.

So if you’re considering participating in an eating challenge, learn from these tragedies. Make sure there is somebody nearby who is trained in CPR and first aid, have water around to wash the food down, and keep your cheeks clear of food at all times. It may very well save your life.