Whole Grapes Cause Two Child Choking Deaths: Report Urges Awareness

A new case report reminds us of the danger of whole grapes after two young boys choked to death on the fruit.
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Many parents know the dangers of feeding toddlers and preschoolers whole grapes. The reason: An unsliced grape is about the same size or slightly larger than a young child's airway, and it's smooth surface means it can easily slide to the back of the throat, causing the child to choke.

Admittedly, it's easy to skip slicing grapes every single time. Or maybe, like me, you slice most of the grapes but will hand one or two whole ones to your little one while you prepare the rest. But a new report out of Scotland reminds us why it's never, ever okay to feed a young child whole grapes.

The report, published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, comes after at least three kids (ages 5 and younger) choked after eating the fruit whole. Tragically, two of those young children died.

In the first case, a 5-year-old choked on a grape at an after-school club. When efforts to dislodge the piece of fruit failed, he went into cardiac arrest and, sadly, passed away. In the second case, a 17-month-old choked on a grape at home. His family couldn't remove it and called for help. A paramedic was able to remove the grape but this little boy also, unimaginably, died. In the third case, a 2-year-old began to choke on a grape at a park but the paramedics arrived in time to help him. Still, the little boy suffered seizures and brain swelling, and ended up spending five days in the ICU. All from a grape! Thankfully, he did make a full recovery.

"There is general awareness of the need to supervise young children when they are eating... but knowledge of the dangers posed by grapes and other similar foods is not widespread," authors Dr. Jamie Cooper and colleague Dr. Amy Lumsden said, according to HealthDay.

According to the report, food accounts for more than half of choking deaths among kids under the age of 5. The worst culprits are hot dogs, candy, and the subject of this report: whole grapes. Experts urge parents and caregivers that grapes—and similarly-sized cherry tomatoes—"should be chopped in half and ideally quartered before being given to young children [aged 5 and under]."

HealthyChildren.org offers a full list of food and non-food choking hazards for small children. The AAP also offers these tips for choking prevention at mealtimes:

  • Cut foods into pieces no larger than 1/2-inch.
  • Always supervise your child when he/she is eating.
  • Make sure kids are seated while eating.
  • Encourage kids to chew their food completely before swallowing.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.

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