VIDEO: Would you know what to do if your child started choking?
Parents have been warned of the potential danger of young children choking on grapes.
Doctors warn grapes are the third most common cause of food-related choking after hot dogs and sweets.
And very young children can choke to death on whole grapes, warn doctors in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.
They say food accounts for more than half the episodes of fatal choking among under fives, with grapes the third most common cause of food related choking after hot dogs and sweets.
But doctors warned public awareness of this potential hazard is not widespread.
They describe three cases of young children, all of whom required emergency treatment after eating whole grapes.
One case involved a five-year-old who started choking while eating whole grapes at an after school club.
Prompt and appropriate attempts to dislodge the grape 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 two-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 emergency treatment to relieve swelling on his brain and to drain a buildup of watery fluid in his lungs.
He spent five days in intensive care before making a full recovery.
The report also recalls the tragic case case of Abigail Wilson and David Jenkins, who were left devastated when their beloved two-year-old son Jacob lost his fight for life on October 14, having been on a life support machine in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Hospital after choking on the grape in a Pizza Hut five days earlier.
The couple are keen to stress the importance of first-aid training to help prevent such tragedies in the future.
Abagail said: “ I think for any workplace, not just with children, the money’s nothing. It doesn’t come close to everyone being trained in the first place.”
Doctors say 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.
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.
Study author Dr Jamie Cooper, of Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital, said: “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 small children; but knowledge of the dangers posed by grapes and other similar foods is not widespread.
“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.”
Dr Cooper said grapes and cherry tomatoes “should be chopped in half and ideally quartered before being given to young children” aged five or younger.
And he emphasised “the importance of adult supervision of small children while they are eating.”