A child will die every five days in the United States from choking on food - and that's just food alone. Most commonly linked to food, coins and toys, choking is a leading cause of death and injury among our kids. Something that we should all be more aware of, said blogger Angela Henderson, when she posted an X-ray of a child's throat, lodged with a grape, to Facebook, where it's since gone viral.
The X-ray is of an actual patient, in a recent pediatrics case. The grape wasn't moving on its own, which meant general anesthesia and surgery for the 5-year-old. Pretty awful stuff, but the boy is one of the lucky ones. (Unfortunately, a lot of kids in his predicament don't make it long enough to receive surgery.) This particular grape wasn't large enough to disrupt all airflow - part of his airway, thankfully, remained open. And while the image comes as a shock (seriously that's pretty distressing), it's meant to teach an important lesson.
"Please be mindful that not all kids chew their food, are in a rush at school to get in the playground etc.," Henderson wrote on Facebook, where she thanked the pediatrician and child's mother for allowing her to repost the image. "When in doubt just cut the damn grapes [and] baby tomatoes."
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wholeheartedly agrees. The AAP updated their policy on choking prevention back in 2010, advising parents to be weary of small "kid-friendly" foods that can actually cause harm. Foods like grapes, popcorn, nuts and hotdogs are common choking culprits, and should not be given to children younger than four. The fine motor skills required to properly grind up food and the general awareness that a food is too big to swallow remain incomplete through childhood, making parental intervention critical.
When it comes to grapes (and foods shaped like grapes), the AAP recommends cutting them into quarters, which effectively changes the shape. If a quarter of a grape goes down the wrong pipe, it's a lot less likely to lodge, unlike a round, plug-like whole grape, which can cut off an airway.
In recent years, the AAP has called on the Food and Drug Administration to require safety labels on foods that are known choking hazards (like grapes!). While some food brands and distributors do this voluntarily, it is not yet mandatory. They've also tapped manufacturers, suggesting that common food choking hazards be redesigned to reduce the risk (they've focused mainly on hot dog distributors, for this). This claim went to the wayside though when Internet commenters said parents should be responsible for this "redesign" by cutting the food. Which, you have to admit, is really just common sense.
Until hot dogs stop being hot dogs (and grapes stop being grapes), it's important to heed Henderson and the AAP's advice. Cut those round foods into quarters and don't give kids foods they aren't yet ready to eat - the Mayo Clinic advises reaching out to your child's pediatrician for a more comprehensive breakdown on when to introduce specific foods to your growing little ones (and their even littler mouths).
[h/t Daily Mail]
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