What to do when a child is choking
A recent story in the news about a young boy choking on a grape has highlighted the dangers of choking. It is something that tragically can happen to any one of any age, and it has highlighted the importance of us all knowing what to do in an emergency.
The appropriate first aid treatment delivered quickly can really make a difference to an adult, baby or child that is choking. When someone is choking it's really quite frightening and often difficult to know the best way to help. If they are coughing and spluttering, it is best to give them a little time to see if they can cough the obstruction up themselves. If the person is red in the face, struggling to breath and unable to make a sound, then this means their airway is completely blocked and they need urgent help fast.
People can choke on all sorts of things, small objects are generally easier to dislodge than things such as balloons that stick more firmly in the airway. - When chopping up food be careful to avoid slicing them into perfect circles, instead go for small pieces or batons which, if someone does choke on them may still allow some air to reach their lungs.
What to do if someone is choking
- Always check first to see if they are able to cough and encourage them to do so as often they are able to clear the blockage themselves.
- If they are unable to cough bend them forward supporting them on their chest with the other hand and use the flat of your hand to give a sharp back blow between the shoulder blades. Check to see if the blockage has cleared before giving another blow. If the blockage hasn’t cleared after five blows, get an ambulance on the way and move to abdominal thrusts/the Heimlich manoeuvre.
- Stand behind them and place one hand in a fist under their rib cage. Use the other hand to pull up and under to dislodge the obstruction. You are using a J shaped motion to pull up and under their rib cage. Perform abdominal thrusts up to 5 times, checking each time to see if the obstruction has cleared - anyone who has received abdominal thrusts must be seen by a doctor.
- If the person is still choking, call 999 (or 112) and alternate five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until emergency help arrives. If at any point they become unconscious, commence CPR.
Babies and young children can choke on anything that can fit through a toilet roll, to prevent choking keep small objects out of reach, cut up food into very small pieces and supervise children while they’re eating, especially if they are under five years old. Signs of choking can include being unable to speak or cry, clutching at their throat, struggling to breath etc.
How to help a choking child - over 1 year of age
- If a child shows signs of choking, stay calm and see if you can get them to cough to help dislodge the object.
- If they are unable to cough, bend them forward, supporting them on their chest with one hand. With the other hand use the flat of your hand to give a sharp back blow between the shoulder blades.
- Check to see if the blockage has cleared before giving another blow - give up to 5 back blows checking each time to see if the blockage has cleared.
- If the back blows haven’t helped get an ambulance on the way.
- If the blockage hasn’t cleared after five blows, the next stage is to do an abdominal thrust/Heimlich manoeuvre.
- Stand behind the child and place one hand in a fist under their rib cage. Use the other hand to pull up and under in a J shaped motion, to dislodge the obstruction. Perform abdominal thrusts up to 5 times, checking each time to see if the obstruction has cleared. Anyone who has received abdominal thrusts must be seen by a doctor.
- If the child is still choking, call 999 (or 112) and alternate five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until emergency help arrives. If at any point the child becomes unconscious, commence CPR.
What to do when a baby is choking - babies under 1 year of age
- First look in the baby’s mouth and if there is something obvious in the mouth, remove it with finger tips. DO NOT put your fingers down a baby or child’s throat, or finger sweep the mouth, as this can make matters worse by pushing the obstruction further down or by causing swelling.
- Lay the baby downwards on your forearm, across your legs, supporting them under their chin and using the flat of your hand, give a firm back blow between the shoulder blades.
- Give up to five back blows and check between each blow to see if the blockage has cleared. If the obstruction has not come out get an ambulance on the way.
- If the blockage hasn’t cleared, lay the baby on their back, place two fingers in the centre of the chest just below the nipple line and give up to five chest thrusts. (the same place as you push when doing chest compressions on a baby). Warning never do an abdominal thrusts on a baby under a year as you could cause damage. Check to see if the blockage has cleared between each chest thrust.
- If the baby is still choking, call 999 (or 112) and continue alternate five back blows and five chest thrusts until emergency help arrives.
If you are unsure of what to do in a medical emergency please book onto a First Aid course or you can brush up on essentials with an online course from www.onlinefirstaid.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8675 4036 for more information.
First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.
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