Young children can choke to death on whole grapes, doctors warn

December 20, 2016

Very young children can choke to death on whole grapes, warn doctors writing in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Foodstuffs account for over half the episodes of fatal choking among the under 5s, with grapes the third most common cause of food related choking after and sweets. But of this potential hazard is not widespread, they say.

They describe three cases of , all of whom required emergency treatment after eating whole grapes.

One case involved a 5 year old who started choking while eating whole grapes at an after school club. Prompt and appropriate attempts to dislodge the didn't work and the child went into cardiac arrest. The grape was later removed by paramedics, using specialist equipment, but the child died.

In the second case, a 17 month old boy was eating sandwiches and fruit with his family at home, when he choked on a grape. Attempts to try and dislodge it were unsuccessful and the emergency services were called. The grape was eventually removed by a paramedic but the child still died.

The third case involved a 2 year old who was snacking on grapes in the park when he started choking. Again, the grape proved impossible to dislodge, and an ambulance was called. Paramedics were on the scene within a minute and successfully cleared the airway.

The child suffered two seizures before reaching hospital and, on arrival, required to relieve swelling on his brain and to drain a build-up of watery fluid in his lungs. He spent five days in intensive care before making a full recovery.

The airways of young children are small; they don't have a full set of teeth to help them chew properly; their swallow reflex is underdeveloped; and they are easily distracted, all of which puts them at risk of choking, explain the authors.

Grapes tend to be larger than a young child's airway. And unlike small hard objects, such as nuts, the smooth soft surface of a grape enables it to form a tight seal in an airway, not only blocking this completely, but also making it more difficult to remove without specialist equipment, they emphasise.

"There is 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 ; but knowledge of the dangers posed by grapes and other similar foods is not widespread," write the authors.

While there are plenty of warnings on the packaging of small toys about the potential choking hazard they represent, no such warnings are available on foodstuffs, such as grapes and cherry tomatoes, they point out.

As such, they advise that grapes and cherry tomatoes "should be chopped in half and ideally quartered before being given to young children (5 and under)," and emphasise "the importance of adult supervision of small children while they are eating."

Explore further: Favorite foods can cause serious choking accidents in kids (w/ Video)

More information: Case report: The choking hazard of grapes: a plea for awareness, Archives of Disease in Childhood, DOI: 10.1136/archdischild-2016-311750

Related Stories

Favorite foods can cause serious choking accidents in kids (w/ Video)

July 29, 2014
Most parents never dream that their children's favorite foods can pose choking hazards.

Grape consumption associated with healthier eating patterns in US children and adults

August 2, 2013
In a new observational study published in the Journal of Food Science, researchers looked at the association of grape consumption, in the non-alcoholic forms most commonly consumed – fresh grapes, raisins and 100% grape ...

Grape consumption associated with healthier dietary patterns

October 10, 2012
In a new observational study presented today at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition (FNCE) in Philadelphia, PA, researchers looked at the association of grape consumption, in ...

New study finds increase in nonfatal food-related choking among children in the US

July 29, 2013
Choking is a leading cause of injury among children, especially for children 4 years of age and younger. A new study by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's ...

What to do if your child chokes

August 10, 2013
(HealthDay)—Choking is a leading cause of injury and death among American children, especially those age 3 years and younger, and parents and other caregivers need to know what to do in such cases, an expert says.

Toward consistently good pinot noir

January 20, 2016
The grapes used to make pinot noir, the red wine of hit comedy "Sideways" fame, are known to be literally and figuratively thin-skinned. They're highly sensitive to their environment, making it difficult for growers to determine ...

Recommended for you

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

Blood of SIDS infants contains high levels of serotonin

July 3, 2017
Blood samples from infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had high levels of serotonin, a chemical that carries signals along and between nerves, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes ...

Is your child's 'penicillin allergy' real?

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many children suspected of being allergic to the inexpensive, first-line antibiotic penicillin actually aren't, new research indicates.

Probiotic supplements failed to prevent babies' infections

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Probiotic supplements may not protect babies from catching colds or stomach bugs in day care, a new clinical trial suggests.

Starting school young can put child wellbeing at risk

June 22, 2017
New research has shown that the youngest pupils in each school year group could be at risk of worse mental health than their older classmates.

Fidget spinners are the latest toy craze, but the medical benefits are unclear

June 21, 2017
Last week, German customs agents in Frankfurt Airport seized 35 metric tons of an imported plastic device, destroying the shipment for public safety purposes before it could infiltrate the country's marketplaces.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.