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  • Writer's pictureSGFIRSTAID

How to stop a child from choking

Children, especially those aged 1 to 5, frequently put items in their mouths. This is how they normally explore the world.

Small things, such as marbles, beads, and button batteries, can become lodged in a child's airway and cause choking.

The simplest way to avoid this is to keep little things like these out of reach of your toddler.

Your youngster may choke on anything, no matter how careful you are. Most of the time, you or someone else will witness your child ingest the thing that is causing the choking.

Tips on helping a choking child

  • Try to remove the thing if you can see it. Don't poke your fingers blindly or repeatedly. You might make matters worse by shoving the item deeper in and making it more difficult to remove.

  • If your child is coughing loudly, urge them to cough again to bring up whatever they are choking on and don't leave them.

  • If your child's coughing is ineffective (it's quiet or they can't breathe correctly), call for help right away and determine whether or not they're still aware.

  • If your child is still aware but not coughing or if their coughing is ineffective, employ back blows.

Back blows for babies under 1 year

  • Sit down and lay your baby face down along your thigh or forearm, supporting their back and head with your hand.

  • Give up to 5 sharp back blows with the heel of 1 hand in the middle of the back between the shoulder blades.

Back blows for children over 1 year

  • Lay a small child face down on your lap as you would a baby.

  • If this isn't possible, support your child in a forward-leaning position and give 5 back blows from behind.

If back blows don't relieve the choking and your baby or child is still conscious, give chest thrusts to infants under 1 year or abdominal thrusts to children over 1 year.

This will create an artificial cough, increasing pressure in the chest and helping to dislodge the object.

Chest thrusts for children under 1 year

  • Lay your baby face up along the length of your thighs.

  • Find the breastbone and place 2 fingers in the middle.

  • Give 5 sharp chest thrusts (pushes), compressing the chest by about a third.

Abdominal thrusts for children over 1 year

  • Stand or kneel behind your child. Place your arms under the child's arms and around their upper abdomen.

  • Clench your fist and place it between the navel and ribs.

  • Grasp this hand with your other hand and pull sharply inwards and upwards.

  • Repeat up to 5 times.

  • Make sure you don't apply pressure to the lower ribcage, as this may cause damage.

Following chest or abdominal thrusts, reassess your child as follows

  • If the object still isn't dislodged and your child's still conscious, continue the sequence of back blows and either chest or abdominal thrusts.

  • Call out or send for help, if you're still on your own.

  • Don't leave the child.

Call 995 if the blockage doesn't come out after trying back blows and either chest or abdominal thrusts. Keep trying this cycle until help arrives.

Even if the object has come out, get medical help. Part of the object might have been left behind, or your child might have been hurt by the procedure.

Unconscious child with choking

  • If a choking child is, or becomes, unconscious, put them on a firm, flat surface and shout for help.

  • Call 995, putting the phone on speakerphone so your hands are free.

  • Don't leave the child at any stage.

  • Open the child's mouth. If the object's clearly visible and you can grasp it easily, remove it.

  • Start CPR – see How to resuscitate a child.

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