A young boy from the northern Spanish city of Gijón lost his life in the early minutes of 2019 after suffocating on one of the grapes he was given by his parents to ring in the New Year.
Local police rushed the three year old to the city’s Jove hospital after they received an emergency call from the minor’s parents informing them that he wasn’t breathing and had no pulse.
Upon arrival at the ER, doctors were unable to resuscitate the three year old, Catalan daily El Periódico reported.
Choking on grapes is the third cause of lethal suffocation in young children in Spain, preceded by sweets and hot dogs.
Kids under the age of five are particularly at risk due to their smaller airways and teeth as well as an undeveloped swallowing reflex and their capacity for distraction while eating.
Grapes are often larger than children’s airways and unlike other small and harder objects or foods such as nuts, their smooth surface allows them to completely block the respiratory tract and make extraction very difficult without the right tools.
Ear, nose and throat (ENT) associations have for years warned that the Spanish tradition of wolfing down a grape for every one of the twelve chimes that rings in the New Year is not without its risks.
They’ve told the public to buy seedless, skinless grapes and are even pushing for the time between dongs to be extended from three to five seconds to allow revellers to catch their breath more easily and swallow properly.
People over the age of 65 are also considered to be a high-risk group for suffocation during this tradition.