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Grapes pose danger of choking for under 5s

Grapes are among foods that must be cut up to prevent risk of choking small children, researchers say
Grapes

Grapes eaten whole are the third-biggest cause of food-related choking in under 5s, according to research.

More than half of fatal choking cases in this age group are caused by food, most commonly hot dogs and then sweets followed by grapes.

The researchers warn there is insufficient public awareness of the danger and advise that grapes and cherry tomatoes should be halved or quartered before being given to small children.

They describe three cases of children who needed emergency treatment after eating whole grapes, two of whom died. The third survived but suffered swelling of the brain and a buildup of fluid in his lungs, and spent five days in intensive care.

Commenting on the research, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, Dr Julie-Ann Maney of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health urged parents to cut food

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Grapes eaten whole are the third-biggest cause of food-related choking in under 5s, according to research.

Grapes
Picture: iStock

More than half of fatal choking cases in this age group are caused by food, most commonly hot dogs and then sweets followed by grapes.

The researchers warn there is insufficient public awareness of the danger and advise that grapes and cherry tomatoes should be halved or quartered before being given to small children.

They describe three cases of children who needed emergency treatment after eating whole grapes, two of whom died. The third survived but suffered swelling of the brain and a buildup of fluid in his lungs, and spent five days in intensive care.

Commenting on the research, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, Dr Julie-Ann Maney of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health urged parents to cut food up into small pieces.

‘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.

‘As a paediatrician working in a busy emergency department, sadly situations like those outlined in this paper are not all that uncommon.’

Young children have small airways and grapes tend to be larger than their airways. This age group also lack a full set of teeth to help them chew properly. Their risk of choking is further compounded by an underdeveloped swallow reflex and the fact that they are easily distracted.

The authors explain that as grapes have a smooth, soft surface, a tight seal is formed in an airway, blocking it completely so that the obstruction is difficult to remove without specialist equipment.


Lumsden AJ, Cooper JG (2016) The choking hazard of grapes: a plea for awareness. doi 10.1136/archdischild-2016-311750

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