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Choking Hazards – Any Parent’s Nightmare

Blog post

Have you ever found yourself Googling what to do if a baby chokes? Just in case your baby chokes? I’ve done it a few times, just to refresh my knowledge. When you’re a parent or you look after kids regularly, you become acutely aware of everything that can go wrong with these seemingly fragile little beings. There’s one thing that all parents can agree on: we want to be able to help a child when he or she is gasping for air – and do so as quickly and efficiently as possible.

How do you know when your baby is chocking?

Unfortunately, when babies are chocking, they cannot communicate to us that they’re in danger. Nor can they help themselves when they’re choking. It’s entirely up to the caregiver observing the baby to recognise the signs of choking:

Laboured or no breathing at all

If the baby still manages to cough, it might mean that the airway is only partially blocked. In this case you should allow the baby to cough and hopefully dislodge the object in their airway. You should still be ready to call for help, and if you do, put the phone on speaker so that you have your hands free. Never slap the child on their back while they’re upright; this can move the object further down their throat. Avoid trying to clear the throat with your fingers, it’s likely to push the obstruction deeper in.

No sound while crying

It’s common to think that a baby would make crying noises if they are chocking, but they can’t make a sound if their airway is blocked. So if your baby looks like they’re crying without a sound, they might very well be choking.

Face turning blue, purple or ashen-like

The most tell-tale sign that someone is chocking is if their skin, especially of the face, takes on a blueish tint. A lack of oxygen leads to a change in skin colour. A person’s face will turn red if they’re just gagging and trying to dislodge the object in their throat.

Visible signs of panic

The baby may flail their arms and look distressed, also with little or no noise. This can be a sign of chocking, especially if it’s in combination with any of the other signs.

Loss of consciousness or becoming unresponsive

This is an extremely troubling sign of choking. If the baby stops breathing and loses consciousness, you will need to perform CPR to ensure that vital oxygen reaches the baby’s brain and organs.

What to do if your baby is chocking

Step 1

First confirm that the baby really is choking. If he or she is able to cough or gag, they are most like not choking, and busy trying to dislodge whatever may be in their throat.

Step 2

Put the baby facedown on your forearm, use your thighs or knees for support. Make sure you have a well-placed grip on your baby so that they don’t fall head-first to the ground. The baby’s head must be slightly lower than their body. Use your free hand to deliver five quick and firm taps to the area between the baby’s shoulder blades.

Step 3

Turn the baby onto their back, ensuring that their head is still lower than their body. Be sure to support their head and neck. Find your baby’s breastbone – it’s located between and slightly lower than the nipples. Press down firmly five times. These compressions must be firm enough to compress the chest in about one third of the way. This will help to expel air from the lungs, which can potentially push the object out.

Step 4

If the object still hasn’t dislodged, you need to call emergency services. You will need to do infant or child CPR until an ambulance arrives. 

Additional tips

  • Keep calm! This can be difficult, but if you’re so stressed and flustered that you cannot think straight, you will not be able to help your child effectively.
  • Inspect your house for chocking hazards and remove them. Remember that older children can leave small toys like Barbie shoes, LEGOs, coins, etc. lying around. Be sure to educate them on the danger of this as well.
  • Be aware of food that may cause chocking, such as whole grapes, pieces of hard fruits such as apples, etc.
  • Do an infant and child CPR course. It could save a child’s life!

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