Doctors are reminding parents and carers to avoid giving whole grapes to children because they pose a major choking risk.

Believe it or not, grapes were recently named as the third most common cause of food choking deaths. Research found that only hotdogs and sweets are bigger choking hazards.

While most parents know that young children shouldn’t be given foods such as whole nuts, doctors are concerned that many are still unaware of the dangers posed by the fruit.

Their small size and round shape means it is easy for them to completely block the airways. To make matters worse, their soft texture makes grapes difficult to dislodge.

A plea for safety

In a research paper published in the British Medical Journal, Dr Jamie Cooper and Dr Amy Lumsden of the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, make a plea for more parents to be aware of the risk of giving grapes to children.

Dr Cooper, a consultant in the emergency department, told The Guardian that medical staff may not be aware of the full extent of the problem as each hospital only sees a small percentage of choking cases.

Discussing one case involving a 17-month-old boy, who died after choking on a grape at home, Dr Cooper said: “The parents and other people were there and they did everything appropriately to try and dislodge the obstruction.

“Experienced people still failed to dislodge the obstruction with non-invasive first aid manoeuvres.

“A paramedic did attend, but the child had gone into cardiac arrest before the grape was able to be removed. Everything was tried to resuscitate the child, but he died later.”

Removing the hazard

Dr Cooper says parents and carers should:

  • chop up soft fruits such as grapes and cherry tomatoes into quarters before giving them to children – grapes should be cut length-wise, not width-wide
  • make sure youngsters are supervised while eating

He also adds that wider health warning should be attached to foods such as grapes: “Ideally we would like supermarkets and big chains to consider putting some choking hazard warning labels on [grapes], just like they do on toys and other things.”

How to treat a choking baby

Leading first aid charity, St John Ambulance, give the following advice for treating a choking baby

Step 1 of 4: Slap it out

  • • Lay your baby face down on you thigh and support their head. Give up to five back blows between their shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
  • • Give up to five back blows between their shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.

Step 2 of 4: Check their mouth

  • • Lay your baby on your thigh face up.
  • • Carefully pick out any obvious objects with your fingertips.

Step 3 of 4: Squeeze it out

  • • Using two fingers, give up to five downward chest thrusts.
  • • Check the mouth. If the obstruction hasn’t cleared, call 999/112 for emergency help.

Step 4 of 4: Call 999 or 112

  • • Take your baby with you and call 999 or 112.
  • • Repeat the above steps 1 to 3 until help arrives.
  • • If they become unresponsive at any stage, open their airway and check their breathing.
  • • If they’re not breathing, start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation ‒ chest compressions and rescue breaths).

Follow this link to find out how to treat a choking child: www.sja.org.uk/sja/first-aid-advice