It's basic math: parenthood is 90 per cent cutting your child's food into small pieces, and 10 per cent everything else.
Once you have a child who eats solid food, it can feel like all you do is cut up bananas, dice peaches, slice hot dogs, and otherwise scrutinize every source of food to determine whether it's a choking hazard.
Grapes are particularly pesky, because a) there are so many of them (no child requests just one grape), b) they're already smallish, so super annoying to cut, c) we've been told over and over again that they're dangerous, so you don't want to let even one whole grape slip through the cracks.
But if you've ever wondered whether your militant grape-slicing was based more on paranoia than actual risk, rest assured that you're not wasting your time quartering those slippery little suckers. A viral X-ray photo that's re-surfaced is once again reminding parents of their choking hazard.
The shocking photo, from Australian blogger Angela Henderson, shows a grape lodged in a five-year-old's airway. The little guy survived, but needed surgery to remove the grape.
"He is VERY lucky that part of his airway was open or else this could have ended badly. So 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 her Facebook page last year.
"Please be careful. And when in doubt just cut the damn grapes, baby tomatoes etc."
The issue with grapes is that they're almost the exact size and shape of a child's esophagus, so they can get lodged very easily, U.S. speech and feeding therapist Lupé Garcia told Romper on Thursday.
"Once a whole grape gets coated in saliva, they are extra slimy and slippery and it doesn't take a whole lot for them to get swallowed improperly," Garcia said.
"When you slice them into quarters, they aren't as hard, and aren't prone to occlude [obstruct] the airway."
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping whole grapes away from children under age four, Garcia said even older kids sometimes eat too quickly, and a parent should "watch their maturity and go from there."
Choking is one of the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths in infants and toddlers in Canada, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS). Most foods involved in choking cases are small, round, or cylindrical in shape, CPS noted. Hot dog rounds, whole grapes, carrot slices, peanuts, seeds and hard candy, are some of the worst offenders.
Grapes should be sliced lengthwise, CPS said.
"Every year in Canada, babies and children die from choking. Almost all of these deaths can be prevented," the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) said on its website. The hospital recommends cutting grapes and hot dogs lengthwise and into small pieces until a child is at least five years old.
A recent report about grapes in the medical journal BMJ pleaded for there to be more awareness of the choking hazards. Grapes are the third-most common cause of food-related choking deaths after hot dogs and candies, the authors noted.
Their report highlighted three cases of young children who choked on grapes. Two of them, age five and 17 months, died.