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A relieved father has shared an open letter after his son nearly choked to death on a grape.

Steve Hulbert said he watched in horror as his five-year-old son, Oli, turned blue and eventually lost consciousness when the grapes he was eating became lodged in his throat.

“We came very close to losing this little man today.

When the paramedics arrived 10 minutes after our 999 call, Oli had just lost consciousness after our frantic efforts to remove the grapes in his throat that were choking the life from him.

I ran to the ambulance carrying a limp boy with blue lips and wide staring eyes to hand him into the care of three incredible men.

They immediately set to work with the ultimate calmness and efficiency that only true professionalism can bring.

They fought for ten minutes before support arrived from two more paramedic vehicles and the air ambulance.

And then in a moment that changed the course of our lives, they dislodged the grape and Oli sucked in air. His eyes came into focus and I dared to dream.

I want to shout thanks from the rooftops to the paramedics that arrived quickly enough to save Oli’s life. I want to share with everyone how the team at the hospital exceeded every possible expectation and delivered care, compassion and information with smiles and warmth.

We are incredibly lucky to have this institution and the people that dedicate their lives to making ours better.

I will be forever in their debt. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

His post has been shared over 7600 times and received over 17,000 reactions.

We recently shared a story from an Aussie family who shared an x-ray explaining how important it is for parents to be vigilant about food even as your children get older. Her five year old also choked on a grape. Read that warning here.

What to do

We have shared before that Kidsafe recommend, “choking on food or a small object may occur at all ages. However, it is a particular problem for young children 0–4 years due to their small breathing tubes (airways) and the fact that they are still developing their teeth and the ability to chew and swallow.

Young children are most at risk of choking on some foods because their incisor teeth erupt 10 months to 2 years before the second molars (at 20–30 months). Thus there is a period of time that children are able to bite off portions of food without being able to fully grind the food before they swallow it.

The most common types of food that young children choke on are nuts, popcorn, corn chips, whole grapes, hard or sticky lollies, foods that have small and hard pieces (such as raw carrot, celery or apple), foods with tough skin such as sausages and hotdogs, and stringy meats such as chicken and steak.

Young children commonly place small objects into their mouth as a means of exploring the world around them. These can be small items such as buttons, batteries, coins, parts from toys, marbles, pen tops, and other small round objects.”

Prevention of choking via Kidsafe

There is conflict between the importance for children to eat raw, natural and often more healthy foods, and their ability to chew these foods properly.

Some useful advice to consider when preparing food for young children is:
•Avoid pieces of raw carrot, celery sticks and chunks of apple (for example). These foods can instead be grated, par boiled so they are slightly softer, or mashed.
•Sausages, frankfurts and other meats with coarse outer skins should be cut into small pieces and the skin/fat removed. Stringy meats such as chicken and steak also need to be cut into small pieces or minced.
•Do not give popcorn, nuts, whole grapes, hard lollies, corn chips or other similar foods to young children.

Because the environment in which children eat also has an impact on safe eating, it is important to:
•Always stay with your young child.
•Make sure that your young child sits quietly while eating.
•Never force your young child to eat, as this may cause them to choke.

What to do if a young child chokes via Kidsafe

Check first if the child is still able to breathe, cough or cry.

If the child IS breathing, coughing or crying, the child may be able to dislodge the food by coughing:
•Check the child’s mouth for food; remove any food that you can see (scoop it out with your fingers).
•Stay with the child and watch to see if their breathing improves.
•If coughing has not removed the food and your child is not breathing easily, phone 000 for an ambulance
•Give up to 5 sharp blows between the shoulder blades using the heal of your hand.
•Check the child’s mouth after each back blow and remove any food.

If the child is still not breathing, commence CPR. The ambulance service operator will be able to tell you what to do next.

Share your comments below.

  • this is so scary to think about and thank god that everything was alright! such a close call

    Reply

  • It has been reported that some children don’t chew food properly until the age of approx. 7 y.o. Grapes are fairly solid so need to be chewed very well. Fortunately one of our kids automatically regurgitates if he doesn’t swallow something properly. He did it even as a baby.

    Reply

  • Wow I was aware of the risk in young kids but that poor little guy looked older.

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  • Thank you for the information, a very scary situation indeed.

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  • Goodness, how scary for all involved. You wouldn’t think that a 5 year old would choke on a grape so this article is a bit of a wake up call for me!

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  • Firstly – paramedics are amazing! Secondly – I’m paranoid about grapes ever since I saw a toddler at Woolies almost choke on one. I still cut in half for my kids – even my 8 yr old because her toddler siblings often eat at the same time. Scarey how foods you wouldn’t consider a big danger can be exactly that!

    Reply

  • do you know I have never really thought once about giving my kids grapes – all summer we eat them and I pack them in their lunch boxes – they are 6 and 10 and not once have I questioned could they choke on this – I think from now on I will cut them in half just in case! (and remind my girls to chew them!)

    Glad that Oli was rescued by some amazing and quick paramedics

    Reply

  • its easy how we try to find food that’s quick and easy to pack in kids bags for day trips or to avoid buying things at the shops. but simple food causes choking. ive always said to my children chew 20 times before your swallow as they have a habit of not chewing food properly and swallowing it too but been lucky on no choking. lucky oli is okay.

    Reply

  • Grapes seem to be a particular culprit.

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  • Such a scary thing to happen. Glad Oli is doing well.

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  • It is shocking how so many innocent incidents can change our lives forever. Thank goodness Oli is okay.

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  • Thanks for sharing the KidSafe tips – a good ready reference for all families. A scary experience for this family.

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  • So scary ! Thank God Oli survived this incident, we can be thankful indeed of the professionalism of doctors, nurses and paramedics.
    I’m always watching my 3,5 year old when she eats and plays. She has Down syndrome and literally sticks still everything in her mouth.

    Reply

  • I didn’t know until earlier this year about the grapes hazard, now I chop them up for my two toddlers like clock work, if only their father would believe me

    Reply

  • What a scary thing to have happen. So pleased it all turned out well. Thanks for the post and making us more aware.

    Reply

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