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What-To-Do-If-Your-Child-Is-Choking

What To Do If Your Child Is Choking

Just the thought of your little one choking on something, is enough to bring you out in a cold sweat. But as children love to put objects in their mouth; sometimes things can happen no matter how careful you are; so it’s also vital to know what to do if the worst occurs.

If possible, do a First Aid course every few years, to help you to feel prepared. In the meantime, we’ve prepared some information to help guide you in an emergency.

To minimise risk:

  • Ensure your child is properly supervised; particularly when eating or drinking.
  • Children should sit (preferably at the table) while eating – they’re much more likely to choke if walking or running around.
  • When your baby starts weaning onto solid food, ensure the consistency is suitable for your child’s age, and developmental stage.
  • Always cut up food to a size that your child can chew and eat safely.
  • Feed age-appropriate food to your child: Do not give them popcorn, marshmallows, boiled (hard) sweets, chewing gum or nuts.
  • Grate raw carrots or apples; or slice into batons.
  • Cut grapes, cherry tomatoes and similar shaped soft fruits into quarters or smaller.  The fruit could otherwise totally block a child's airway in a choking incident.
  • Remove or peel skins from sausages, and cut lengthways into small pieces (at least as small as your child’s small fingernail.)
  • Use thick spreads like nut butter or chocolate spread very sparingly, and spread thinly onto bread. 
  • Keep small objects like buttons, magnets, small parts of jewellery and toys, coins, balloons, elastic bands, under-sized soothers/dummies, batteries, marbles, and inedible items in food products out of sight and reach of children.
  • Make sure that your child plays only with age-appropriate toys – older children may not understand what is appropriate for young playmates.
  • Never put jewellery of any kind on a child under three years of age - both the jewellery itself, and bits coming off of it, could be a choking risk.
  • Ensure all battery compartments on toys and remote controls are secure, and cannot be opened by little hands.
  • Check soothers and teats regularly, and throw away worn or torn items.

Use the Safe Toy Code:

  • Throw away broken toys
  • Use the right toy for your child’s age and development stage.
  • Look for CE mark on label
  • Keep toys tidy and clean

To help a choking child:

  • If you can see the object, try to remove it. Don’t poke blindly or repeatedly with your fingers. You could make things worse by pushing the object further in, and making it harder to remove. 
  • If your child is coughing loudly, there’s no need to do anything. Encourage them to carry on coughing and don’t leave them.
  • If your child’s coughing is not effective (it’s silent, or they can’t breathe in properly) shout for help immediately.
  • If your child is still conscious, but they’re either not coughing or their coughing is not effective, use back blows (see below.)

For Babies under 1 year:

  1. Sit down and lay your baby face down along your thighs with their head lower than their body, supporting their head with your hand.

  2. Give up to five sharp back blows with the heel of one hand in the middle of the back, between the shoulder blades.

  3. Turn the infant onto its back while still supporting their head & neck.

  4. Find the breastbone, and place two fingers in the middle, below an imaginary line between the nipples.

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

  6. Keep doing 5 back blows and 5 chest thrusts until the object pops out and the infant begins to breathe again.

  7. If the infant becomes unresponsive, call for help and send someone to dial 999 or 112. Stay on the phone and listen carefully for advice: You must begin CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) - the Ambulance Call Taker will guide you.

For Adults and Children over 1 year:

  1. Encourage them to cough it out. If the child cannot breathe, talk or cough:

  2. Lay smaller children face down on your lap as you would a baby.

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

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

  5. Start the Heimlich manoeuvre by placing the flat thumb side of your clenched fist between the navel and ribs.

  6. Grasp this hand with your other hand and pull sharply inwards and upwards toward their stomach. Repeat up to five times.

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

  8. Repeat until the object pops out and the child begins to breathe again.

  9. If the child becomes unresponsive, gently lower the child to the floor.

  10. Call for help and send someone to dial 999 or 112. Stay on the phone and listen carefully for advice: You must begin CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) - the Ambulance Call Taker will guide you.

Read Next: Preventing Accidents In The Home

All information provided, is in line with advice given by the HSE and St John's Ambulance. To find out about taking a first aid course, go to stjohn.ie, redcrosstraining.ie or orderofmaltaireland.org


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