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New Year grape-eating 'choking risk' for small children, specialists warn
EATING grapes is the third-most frequent cause of children under five choking, experts in Spain have warned ahead of the great New Year's Eve tradition involving the fruit.
According to the Spanish Otorhinolaryngology [ear, nose and throat] and Head and Neck Surgery Society (SEORL-CCC), the risk of fatal choking is even greater when small children consume grapes with pips and skin.
On New Year's Eve, it is custom to eat one grape on each of the 12 chimes as the clock strikes midnight to mark the start of the year to come – and, if children really must join in, they should be given peeled and seedless grapes, which frequently come in tins of 12 specifically for the purpose.
Medics say they will be on the alert on New Year's Eve as this is when they deal with more choking incidents than at any other time of year.
Nuts and balloons are the top two causes of choking, although any type of small fruit is a risk, says the SEORL-CCC's Dr Raimundo Gutiérrez Fonseca.
“Given the shape and texture of grapes, they can slip in the child's mouth, unchewed, and obstruct the respiratory system, preventing the child from breathing – a situation which, if it is not dealt with very quickly, can lead to death,” Dr Gutiérrez Fonseca explains.
“It is best not to give grapes to children under five – if they want to join in the New Year's Eve tradition, cut them up small, peel them and take out the seeds.”
Most fatal choking incidents occur in children under two, when their teeth are not developed, the throat and swallowing system is not yet properly formed, and the respiratory system becomes blocked more easily.
In many cases, the child's coughing fit resulting from the obstruction is enough to clear it, but if not, parents should ensure they know how to perform a children's version of the Heimlich manoeuvre and should get in touch with emergency services immediately.
But prevention is key, and 'anything that cannot fit inside a toilet roll should not be left within the child's reach', Dr Gutiérrez Fonseca says.
This even includes certain food items which a small child cannot chew or swallow in the same way as an adult – boiled sweets, apples, grapes, nuts, popcorn or raw carrots – or, at least, these should be cut either small enough to be able to go straight down without chewing, or sliced longways in the case of carrots, and pips or seeds removed.
Children should not be allowed to run, play or speak when they have food or a toy in their mouths, Dr Gutiérrez Fonseca says.
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