An Australian blogger recently posted a photo on Facebook that apparently shows an X-ray of a grape lodged in a child's airway. She says she shared the image to raise awareness of the choking dangers of certain foods such as grapes, due to the size of a child’s airway. Choking is the fourth leading cause of accidental death for children under age 5.
While plenty of toys come with choking hazard warnings, foods such as grapes, nuts, and candy don’t -- even though food is the most common cause of choking accidents among young children. “The diameter of a child’s airway is about equal to the diameter of their little pinky -- it’s pretty small!” says Hansa Bhargava, MD, senior medical officer and expert pediatrician at WebMD. “Certain foods pose a hazard, as young children are less likely to chew them properly and they can easily get lodged in the airway.”
When that happens, it can be fatal. In December, a report from doctors in Scotland detailed three cases where children younger than 5 choked while eating whole grapes. Sadly, two of the children died. “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," the study authors say.
To lower the chances of choking, cut grapes into small pieces or even mash them up for little ones younger than 2, Bhargava suggests. “For kids ages 2 to 5, it’s also a good idea to chop foods into smaller pieces, until you are sure that your child can chew the food.”
Other safety precautions you can take include making sure your child eats sitting upright at a table, and not let them eat while walking around, or even riding in the car . It’s also a good idea to take a CPR class so you know what to do if your child or someone else starts choking and needs help. (Learn more about CPR for children here.)
Finally, avoid letting children younger than age 4 eat any of these foods:
- Hot dogs
- Nuts and seeds
- Chunks of meat or cheese
- Whole grapes
- Hard or sticky candy
- Chunks of peanut butter
- Chunks of raw vegetables
- Chewing gum