As any parents of small children will know if you’re heading out for the day it’s vital to pack the snacks. And grapes have to be up there as one of the favourite quick-grabs. Not only is there always a bunch languishing in the fridge, but you can literally just stick em in the changing bag and go. But now, parents are being warned about the dangers of children choking on whole grapes.
Writing in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, doctors warned that whole grapes are the third most common cause of food-related choking after hot dogs and sweets, but parents aren’t always aware of the dangers they could pose to young children.
“Any injury, accident and death is a tragedy but it is even more so when that injury, accident or death could have been prevented,” said Dr Julie-Ann Maney, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
“This paper highlights just how dangerous seemingly harmless items of food can be for young children if they are not eaten in the correct way.”
Doctors believe that while there is “widespread awareness” of the choking risk posed by small toys, warning labels are “routinely absent” on some food packaging.
Grapes may pose a greater risk in some cases compared with small hard objects or foods because their smooth, malleable surface is more likely to “form a tight seal” in the child’s throat, not only blocking the airway but also making it difficult to remove without specialist equipment.
“Grapes are a popular food with young children but are ideally suited to cause obstruction of a paediatric airway and are the third most common cause of food-related fatal choking episodes after hotdogs and sweets,” the medics explained.
The paper cited three different cases of children choking on the fruit, including a 17-month-old boy who died after choking while eating sandwiches and fruit at home with his family and a five-year-old who started choking while eating whole grapes at an after-school club. Attempts to dislodge the grape didn’t work and the child went into cardiac arrest.
Another case involved a two-year-old child becoming unresponsive despite attempts to clear his airway. Thankfully, he recovered after a paramedic performed a direct laryngoscopy.
“There is a general awareness of the need to supervise young children when they are eating and to get small solid objects, and some foods such as nuts, promptly out of the mouths of small children,” the article concluded.
“But knowledge of the dangers posed by grapes and other similar foods is not widespread.”
The medics advised halving or even quartering grapes, or similar foods such as cherry tomatoes to avoid fatal choking.
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