The frightening sound of a child choking makes most parents ready to spring into action, but if it happened to your child would you know you know what to do?

Most of the time a piece of food or a small object only partially blocks the trachea, is coughed up, and breathing returns to normal. However, sometimes an object can get into the trachea and completely block off the airway. If airflow is blocked and the brain is deprived of oxygen, it becomes a life-threatening emergency.

An infant or child may be choking & need help immediately if she:

  • is unable to breathe
  • is gasping or wheezing
  • can’t talk, cry, or make noise
  • grabs at her throat or waves arms
  • appears panicked
  • turns blue
  • becomes limp or unconscious

For an infant, sandwich the baby face down, with her head down, between both of your forearms, give a few firm pats to the back to help baby cough up the blockage.

For a toddler / preschooler stand behind them and wrap your arms around their stomach. Place your closed fist just above their belly button and cover your fist with your other hand. Do the heimlich maneuver, which is 2-3 quick inward thrusts to the child’s stomach. The logic being that the forced air will help expel the blockage in the airway.

If you are a parent you should be trained in CPR. Classes are offered through hospitals, schools, and your local Red Cross, American Heart Association or YMCA. You will learn to do the procedures described above correctly. Classes take only a few sessions and usually cover the basics: Airway, Breathing, & Circulation. You never know when an emergency will happen, and if it involves your child, you’ll want to know what to do instead of helplessly standing by. You could save a life.

Preventing Choking

Infants, toddlers,and preschoolers tend to put things in their mouths. The fact that they have smaller airways that are easily blocked, and tend to swallow things whole due to inexperienced chewing, puts children under 3 years of age at high risk for choking.

You can help minimize the risk of choking by:

Avoiding foods like hot dogs, grapes, popcorn, hard candy, and raw carrots

Serve children’s food in small bites, cut meat and bulkier items for them

Cook vegetables to make them easier to eat

Teach children to sit down while eating and not to talk or laugh with their mouths full

Routinely check the floor for small toys and objects that a baby or toddler might put in her mouth

Choose safe, “age appropriate” toys for young children; manufacturers are required by law to list age recommendations and small parts warnings

Take a CPR class so you’ll be prepared – just in case…


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