New warning about choking risks for small children

New warning about choking risks for small children


Parents and those who look after small children are being warned to be more aware of the potentially fatal risks small fruit like grapes and cherry tomatoes can pose. Dr Jamie Cooper, an Emergency Department Consultant in Aberdeen, said there had been numerous incidents of children under 5 choking on these foods, both in Grampian and across the UK, sometimes with fatal consequences.

NHS Grampian Public Health has now produced an awareness raising video aimed at highlighting the dangers and the simple steps that can be followed to dramatically reduce the risk of choking. He said: “There is widespread awareness of the choking hazard of small toys, but it is less well known that food causes more than half of the fatal choking incidents in children under 5. “Small, round food, like grapes and cherry tomatoes for example, have a smooth surface that can form a tight seal of the throat which is difficult to dislodge – even with proper first aid. “Younger children have narrower throats and airways and their teeth aren’t completely formed yet which means they have a reduced ability to chew properly. “Couple that with a tendency to be easily distracted while eating, and it can be a lethal combination. “It’s not just young children that need to be careful – older people, or those with impaired chewing, are also at risk.”

Dr Cooper said that grapes are the third most common cause of food-related fatal choking episodes, after hotdogs and sweets. He continued: “The video is aimed at increasing awareness of the dangers of whole grapes and other similar small fruits as a choking hazard. “The risks can be drastically cut by taking a few seconds to quarter them. That is something we really need parents or people who look after young children at any time to be aware of. It’s a tiny change but one that really could save a child’s life.” Dr Cooper urged parents to ensure young children are always supervised when eating.

“Tragically there have been a number of incidents in the past where children have died as a result of choking on these types of foods so it is vital that young children aren’t left unsupervised when eating,” he said. “If a child does begin to choke, every moment counts so act fast and dial 999 immediately. If the care giver is aware of first aid manoeuvres they also should be attempted urgently.” Christopher Littlejohn, Deputy Director of Public Health, said “The loss of a child is a tragedy beyond words and the hope must be that this video can help prevent this. The video describes cutting up small, round food such as grapes and cherry tomatoes, into quarters before serving to a child under five. This simple measure can help keep young children safe and well. I encourage everyone with young children to take the time to watch the video, and ask that they share this as widely as possible with others through their social networks.” 

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