As families gather around the table during the holidays, it’s wise to consider foods that should not be given to children 5 and under.
Young children can choke to death on whole grapes, warn doctors writing in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Food accounts for over half of fatal choking episodes among children 5 and under, with whole grapes coming in third after hot dogs and candy. But public awareness of the hazard isn’t widespread. While there are warnings on the labels of small toys, there are no choking hazard warnings on foods.
The doctors in Scotland document three choking cases involving whole grapes consumed by a 5-year-old, a 2-year-old and a 17-month-old. Only the 2-year-old survived after paramedics intervened, but the child spent five days in intensive care. Despite efforts by paramedics, the other two children died.
Grapes tend to be larger than a young child’s airway and once they become lodged, they form a tight seal. It’s difficult to remove them without medical equipment. Even, then it’s often too late.
Young children also 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 those things put them at risk of choking, the authors say.
What’s the solution? Chop grapes and similar foods, such as cherry tomatoes, into quarters and closely supervise small children when they are eating.