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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 13:53 GMT
Bush makes light of pretzel scare
resident Bush talks to reporters on Monday morning
Bush cut his face in the incident
US President George W Bush said he felt "great" on Monday, despite having fainted and fallen from a couch after choking on a pretzel over the weekend.

I didn't realise what happened until I looked in the mirror

US President George W Bush

Sporting an angry red bruise on his cheek, the president joked with reporters about the incident as he left the White House on a two-day tour of the Mid-West.

"My mother always said when you're eating pretzels, chew before you swallow," he said before boarding a helicopter to Illinois.

The president's doctor said Mr Bush had been feeling unwell for a couple of days, and he lost consciousness for a short time when his heart rate slowed after he choked on the salty snack.

He slightly cut his face and bruised his lip when he fell to the floor.

Business as usual

Mr Bush is considered extremely healthy for a man in his 50s and has gone ahead with his planned trip to Illinois, Missouri and Louisiana.

What are pretzels?
Chewy salt-encrusted snack with distinctive, twisted shape, popular with beer
Originated in Europe, where some consider them a good luck charm
Introduced in America by early settlers
Annual US sales top $180m

He told reporters that he only realised what had happened when he looked up to see his two dogs, Barney and Spot, looking down at him.

"I hit the deck and woke up and there were Barney and Spot showing a lot of concern," he said.

White House officials say the president was alone watching American football when he fainted at approximately 1735 local time on Sunday (2235 GMT), although his wife Laura was in an adjoining room.

Mr Bush passed out for just a few moments before waking up and contacting White House medical staff.

"He fainted due to a temporary decrease in heart rate brought on by swallowing a pretzel," White House physician Dr Richard Tubb said, adding that the president had complained of feeling "a little off his game" in recent days.

"He said it [the pretzel] didn't seem to go down right," Dr Tubb said. "The next thing he knew he was on the floor."

Low pulse

Mr Bush, 55, runs regularly, particularly at the Camp David presidential retreat in the state of Maryland.

Mr Bush throws  ceremonial first pitch at baseball match at New York's Yankee Stadium, Oct 2001
The president makes a point of showing his fitness

He has a lower than normal pulse rate, which doctors attribute to his rigorous fitness regime.

According to Dr Tubb, this made him more prone to fainting when the pretzel stimulated a nerve when it got caught in his throat.

A neurologist at George Washington University Hospital, Dr Adriana Petretska, said: "It could happen to anybody. It is a typical reaction of the body of a patient who has something stuck in the throat."

The incident comes almost exactly 10 years after President Bush's father, George Bush Snr, famously collapsed and vomited as he was seated next to Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa during a state banquet in Tokyo.

The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"His mishap didn't stop him jetting off to the mid-west"
Greg Katz, Dallas Morning News
"It is not exactly the image he wanted to project"
See also:

05 Aug 01 | Americas
Healthy Bush takes month-long break
14 Jan 02 | Health
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