Doctors have warned that grapes are the third most common cause of food related choking after hot dogs and sweets.
Parents are being advised to supervise young children when eating, following research published yesterday in the BMJ journal, Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Grapes and cherry tomatoes should be chopped as small as possible - either in half or quarters to avoid food becoming lodged in toddlers' throats.
The research focuses on three specific cases which saw the hospitalisation of children in Scotland.
The first case involved a five-year-old who was eating grapes at an after-school club when he began choking. Attempts to remove the grape by staff failed and an ambulance was called.
Eventually a paramedic was able to remove the grape with a forceps. However, the child suffered cardiac arrest and died in the hospital.
The second case features a 17-month-old boy. The boy was eating sandwiches and fruit with his family when he began to choke. His family were unable to dislodge the grape and dialled 999.
The child was admitted to hospital where doctors performed chest compressions, but they failed to remove the obstruction. The grape was later removed but the child was pronounced dead at Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital (RACH).
In a third case, a two-year-old boy was enjoying a snack in the park with his family when he began choking. The Heimlich manoeuver was performed unsuccessfully and after becoming “floppy and unresponsive” the child was taken to hospital by paramedics.
The grape was successfully dislodged by the paramedics, but the child had two seizures en route to the hospital. On admission the child required treatment to “relieve” swelling on his brain and fluid from his lungs. After spending 5 days in intensive care with a clear brain scan, the boy was discharged. He made a full recovery and was “alert and playing normally”.
Authors of the research, Dr Jamie Cooper and Dr Amy Lumsden said, “Grapes tend to be larger than a young child’s airway. Unlike hard objects, such as nuts, the smooth soft surface of grapes enables it to form a tight seal in an airway, not only blocking this completely, but also making it more difficult to remove without specialist equipment”.
They have said there is not enough awareness about the hazards and have therefore contacted the Scottish Government to highlight this information to parents.
There are warnings on small toys about their “potential” choking hazard, but there are no such warnings on small foods, such as grapes and cherry tomatoes, they stressed.
“There is general awareness of the need to supervise young children when they are eating and to get small solid objects, and some foods such as nuts, promptly out of the mouths of small children; but knowledge of the dangers posed by grapes and other similar foods is not widespread.”