Photo: Scott Nolen

Grapes can be a choking hazard for young children: report

January 25, 2017

Aberdeen, Scotland – Behind hot dogs and candy, do you know the third most common cause of food-related choking among children younger than 5? Grapes, according to a case report from the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in Scotland.

The case report details three incidents of children who needed emergency treatment after eating whole grapes. In two of the cases, the child died. Young children don’t yet have all their teeth for proper chewing, their airways are small, their swallow reflex isn’t completely developed, and they’re easily distracted, the report states. Typically, grapes are larger than a young child’s airway. In addition, grapes have a smooth, soft surface that has the potential to create a tight seal in an airway, making them difficult to dislodge.

The researchers recommended that grapes and cherry tomatoes be cut in half or “ideally quartered” before being given to children 5 and younger. Adults also should supervise young children when they eat.

“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,” the researchers said.

The case report was published Dec. 20 in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.