The hidden danger behind a healthy lunchbox staple

Parents are being warned about a lunchbox staple which could be a choking hazard.

Victorian paediatrician Dr Luke Sammartino told Diamond Valley Leader parents need to consider cutting up grapes lengthways before putting them in school lunches.

Dr Sammartino added this season we are seeing grapes that are “particularly big”.

“This can present a choking hazard and there have been cases where children have swallowed a whole grape and it has become stuck in their throats,” he told the paper.

“As a paediatrician who consults with hundreds of families every year, I have seen and heard it all, and an incident like this is obviously incredibly distressing for parents and constitutes an emergency situation requiring immediate attention.”

Two young boys eating grapes.
A paediatrician is warning about the dangers of children eating grapes as they can present a choking hazard. Source: Getty Images (file pic)

Grapes are listed among nuts, popcorn and hard lollies by the Australian Government Department of Health as food which can be a choking hazard to young children.

“Prevent choking by cooking and grating, finely slicing or mashing hard fruits and vegetables like carrots, celery and apple,” the page reads.

“Cut food into pieces smaller than a pea that children can easily chew and swallow.”

It’s recommending cutting grapes lengthways to make them easier to consume.

Foods which can cause choking

  • Hard lollies

  • Nuts

  • Popcorn

  • Corn chips

  • Seeds and fruit with seeds or pips, for example sunflower seeds or watermelon seeds

  • Small round and oval foods such as grapes and cherry tomatoes

  • Hard fruits and vegetables

Grapes can be harder to dislodge

According to a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2017 titled, The choking hazard of grapes: a plea for awareness, grapes can be harder to dislodge than “small, hard objects or foods”.

Dr Jamie G Cooper, from the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in Scotland, wrote while grapes are a popular food with young kids they are “ideally suited to cause obstruction of a paediatric airway and are the third most common cause of food-related fatal choking episodes after hotdogs and sweets”.

Dr Cooper also cited two case studies of children dying after choking on grapes.

An X-ray shows a grape lodged in a child's throat.
A grape lodged in a five-year-old's throat. Source: Facebook/ Finlee and Me

The first was a five-year-old boy who went into cardiac arrest after choking on a grape at after school care.

He was taken to the emergency room but “despite full resuscitation efforts, he remained in cardiac arrest and died”, Dr Cooper wrote.

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In another case, a 17-month-old died after eating grapes with his family.

Dr Cooper noted adults were present in the cases mentioned and “identified the problem quickly and promptly instituted appropriate first aid manoeuvres for the treatment of choking but with no success”.

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