When a child is choking, it can be a pretty scary situation. But
if you know how to respond, in most cases the outcome is favorable and a life
can be saved.
Children can choke on many things, from small toys to food.
Debbie Coshatt, a nurse educator in the Patient Health and Safety Department at
Children’s of Alabama, said if a child is coughing but not choking, stay
nearby and encourage them to cough.
A child may be choking and need immediate help if he or she:
Opens mouth and can’t breathe -
Is gasping or wheezing -
Demonstrates universal sign of choking (hands to
Turns blue or pale
If you see these signs, ACT FAST! This is an emergency situation.
How to help a child who is choking
If the child is over the age of one, immediately perform
abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich maneuver). Coshatt explains the
procedure is very easy. “You’re going to go
right above the belly button, make a fist and do inward and upward motions,” she
This is actually simulating a cough for the child who is
choking. Coshatt said parents should
never be intimidated to perform this procedure. The key is to act fast and be
firm. Don’t worry about injuring
the child who is choking. The goal is to get the object out quickly so they can
How to help a baby who is choking
If the child is under one year old, perform back blows and chest
thrusts. Lay the baby across your arm, face down. It’s best to be seated
so you can rest your arm on your leg. Do five back blows with the heel of your
hand in the middle of their back between the shoulder blades, then carefully
turn the baby over protecting the head and neck, and perform five chest thrusts
using your two or three fingers in the middle of their chest. To do a chest
thrust, press straight down on the chest about 1 1/2 inches. Then allow the
chest to come back to its normal position. You will complete the five back
blows and five chest thrusts until the object comes out or if the baby starts
to cough, forcefully cry, or breathe on its own.
Coshatt said these procedures are highly effective and in most
cases the object comes out quickly without having to call for emergency
If at any time the baby or child loses consciousness, call
There are things parents can do to help prevent a choking
-Make sure kids eat while seated -Avoid laughing, playing while eating -Don’t
allow children under five to have hard candies or nuts -Watch for small household items or toys that can pose a choking
hazard -Foods like hot dogs, carrots and grapes should be cut length
wise and crosswise to prevent choking
not just a small child who can choke.
Older children and adults can as well. Coshatt said the most critical thing for parents to realize is
the importance of taking action quickly and not being afraid to help. In most cases,
a life can be saved.