Choking: First Aid

What causes choking?

Choking occurs when something is stuck in the throat, blocking the airway to the lungs. This blockage can be partial or complete. The airway is the path air travels down to get to the lungs. Most choking episodes, such as those caused by liquids, clear without a need for assistance. When the airway is blocked, this is called foreign body airway obstruction.

How to tell if your child is choking

A mild choking episode may cause your child to cough, gag, or vomit. Your child’s face may also turn very red. If your child is having a more severe choking episode, she will not be able to breathe, cry, or speak. Her skin, lips, and nails may turn a purplish-blue colour.

What to do if your child is choking

Check to see if your child is responsive

Tap your child gently and ask loudly, “Are you OK?” If she does not answer, call 911. If you are not alone, get someone else to call for you.

If your child does answer, encourage her to cough up the object on her own. Do not hit your child on the back to remove the object. Do not give your child anything to drink. This can block air from getting to the lungs.

Check to see if your child is breathing

If your child is not breathing, call 911. If you are not alone, get someone to call for you.

If your child is breathing, her airway is not completely blocked. Turn your child onto her side to keep the airway open and reduce the risk of  a complete obstruction of the airway. Stay with your child until her breathing improves.

If your child is having a more severe choking episode, call 911. If you are not alone, get someone to call for you. You must act right away to relieve the blockage.

The Heimlich maneuver

The Heimlich maneuver increases the pressure in the chest, which helps to force out the object that is blocking the airway.

If your child is over 1 year old

Stand or kneel behind your child. Hug your child tightly, just below her lower ribs. Begin quick upward thrusts at a 45-degree angle. This will  force out the remaining air in her chest and help bring up the object. Do this 10 more times right away.

Child Heimlich Maneuver (Standing)
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The Heimlich maneuver can also be performed by laying your child on her back. Place the heel of one of your hands just below her ribs. Put your other hand on top of the first and begin applying bursts of pressure.

Child Heimlich Maneuver (Laying Down)
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If your child is under 1 year old

Place your child face-down on your knees or over your forearm. Using the heel of your hand, give five firm back blows between the shoulder blades.

Infant Back Blows
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If your child is still not breathing, lay her on her back and place two fingers over the lower breast bone, just below the nipple-line. Using your fingers, perform five quick chest compressions.

Infant Chest Compressions
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How to prevent my child from choking

As children grow, so does their curiosity for the environment around them. Children often make initial contact with an unfamiliar object with their hands, but in a matter of seconds it can end up in their mouth. To prevent this from happening, take the following steps:

  • Keep small objects and foods out of your child’s reach.  

  • If your child is under 4 years old, do not give foods like popcorn, gum and hard candies. Chop soft foods like hotdogs, sausages and grapes into small pieces.

  • Teach your child to chew all foods thoroughly before swallowing.

  • Clean up right away after parties. Choking on rubber balloons has become the leading cause of choking-related deaths from objects other than food.

Key points

  • Choking occurs when there is a blockage in the air tube to the lungs.

  • If your child is not breathing, call 911. If you are not alone, get someone else to call for you.

  • If your child is over 1 year old, stand or kneel behind her to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

  • If your child is under 1 year old, place her face down on your knees or over your forearm to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

  •  Keep small objects and foods out of young children’s reach.

 

11/1/2010




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