What to do if your child chokes

If you have ever been around a choking baby it can be one of the MOST scariest experiences.  It’s a moment that can cause complete panic and in some cases a life or death scenario (this is not an entirely grim post I promise!)  Thankfully – knowing some basic first aid – and really it is basic – the problem can be solved quickly.

So tell us – would you honestly know what to do?

For me – an awareness of a choking baby all started with a Rice Krispie.   I had heard of the Heimlich maneuver and even believed I could administer one.  I had basically seen it in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire.  If you have forgotten the beatific scene the achingly handsome Pierce Bronson chokes on a piece of non specific food and Mrs. Doubtfire performs the abdominal thrust and saves his life. Relive the scene here.

So back to the Rice Krispie – my nephew choked on one, or many, who knows…?  After wolfing down his much anticipated breakfast at nursery, at some point his air-way became blocked and he started to choke.  I mean really started to choke.  According to the staff his lips went blue and an ambulance was called.   When they called my sister to explain what had happened they apologized for the bruises on his back and abdomen (he was really bruised). In hindsight the staff clearly knew their stuff and saved his life.

Fast forward a few years and I am 4 months into weaning my 10 month old. Despite having 8 teeth perfectly capable of chewing food – he regularly terrifies me with spontaneous gagging, spluttering, sucking in air, a choking sick type sound and then plop – the offending item re-appears in a glop of saliva.

“Check the mouth, Slap it out, Squeeze it out” St John Ambulance

So..kicked into gear I have now swatted up on the basic techniques to deal with a choking baby (under 1 years of age) or child (12 months or older).  The mumstheword team is also booked on a first aid course so standby for more Intel. For now I have summarized the fantastic St John Ambulance steps below.

What to do if your baby chokes?

If your baby suddenly becomes distressed, struggles to breath or is visibly unable to cough then they could be choking.  In my case it was on a piece of croissant. My 10  month old had been sat calmly on my lap while I chatted to friends, gumming a small piece of croissant. He suddenly went quiet, frantically arched his back, and went bright red.  He was choking…

Step 1: Slap it out

  •      Lay your baby face down on your thigh, support their head
  •      Administer 5 hard blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand

In my case it worked – Joseph coughed out the croissant and started to cry. Loudly!

Step 2: Check the mouth

  •      Turn your baby onto it’s back
  •      Check the mouth gently for any obvious objects

Step 3: Squeeze it out

  •      Using two fingers, place them in the center of baby’s chest in line with the arm pits
  •      Press sharply down 5 times
  •      Check the mouth

Step 4: Call 999 or the emergency services

  •      Call the emergency services, take your baby with you, and repeat steps 1-3
  •      If the baby becomes unresponsive, check the airway.
  •      If they are NOT breathing then administer CPR.

What to do if your child over 1 years old starts to choke?

If you think your child is choking ask them: ‘Are you choking?’. Can they speak, cough, cry or breathe? If not, they could be choking.

Step 1: Cough it out

  • Encourage them to cough it out. If that doesn’t work, try to slap it out.

Step 2:  Slap it out

  • Help the child bend forward and use the heel of your hand to give up to five sharp back blows between their shoulder blades.
  • Check their mouth to see if there’s anything in there. If there is, get them to pick it out themselves.

Step 3:  Squeeze it out

If the back blows don’t work, try giving them up to five abdominal thrusts:

  • To do this, stand behind the child, making sure they are bending well forward.
  • Link your hands between their tummy button and the bottom of their chest, with your lower hand clenched in a fist.
  • Then pull sharply inwards and upwards.

Step 4: If they’re still choking call 999 or 112 for an ambulance

  • Once you’ve called an ambulance, continue steps 2 and 3 until what’s in there has cleared, help arrives or they become unresponsive.
  • If they become unresponsive at any stage, open their airway and check their breathing. If they’re not breathing, start CPR.

So if you are reading this (thank you) please share this video with your friends. It could help you save the life of a choking baby. We hope it helps you in some way? Share your experiences or advice with us below.

Useful links:

St John Ambulance First Aid: https://www.sja.org.uk/sja/first-aid-advice/first-aid-for-parents/first-aid-for-9-months.aspx

How to help a choking child: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/helping-choking-baby.aspx

How to perform the Heimlich maneuver: http://www.wikihow.com/Perform-the-Heimlich-Maneuver

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