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Home Health First Aid Signs of Choking in Children

Signs of Choking in Children

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When Your Baby Appears to be Choking; Take Care and Look and Listen Before Over-Reacting

While no parent wants to think about it, choking is something that can easily happen to a small child, and even an older child in certain situations. The best thing to do is to learn about and understand the signs of choking so you can be totally prepared - just in case.

How To Tell if Your Child Is In Danger Choking

Luckily, older children will be able to indicate if they are choking and you are much more likely to know what is wrong. A young child or baby cannot do this, therefore you will have to be prepared and know the different signs of choking. A choking child is scary to have to deal with, but you will have to remain as calm as possible in order to free their airway and dislodge whatever might be in their throat.

Choking in children is actually quite common and while certain foods can be the cause, it is normally a toy or something else found while crawling around that they swallow. They could also find their way to a curtain cord or some other piece of rope, ribbon or string which wraps around their necks. Now, while choking may be something you think is easy to diagnose, there are instances when a choking child may not appear to be choking.

A choking victim may have something small enough stuck in their air passage that parents and child care workers don't pick up on it. The symptoms that you should be aware of include the following:


  • Decreased breathing or difficulty in breathing
  • Coughing constantly
  • Blue or purple color around the mouth
  • A high pitched wheezing sound
  • The choking victim might clutch his or her throat if they are able to
  • No sound coming out when they try to cry or speak

Actions to Take When A Child Is Choking

So, what should you do is your child is choking? There are a number of actions to take when a child is choking that will help you to save their lives. The most important thing that every parent and child care worker should know is CPR. You can take various courses through the Red Cross or other society to learn CPR for infants, children and adults.

The first thing you want to do when a child is choking is to assess the situation and call out for help. An experienced  professional may be nearby.  If there is only a partial block, the child will cough and this is actually the best thing to dislodge the blockage. If this does not work, you should start doing back blows and chest thrusts.  Sometimes turning a child face lower will let gravity assist the situation.

Back blows are done by placing your baby face down over your forearm which should be resting on your thigh. You should then give 5 firm back blows with the heel of your hand right between the shoulder blades. The baby's head should be lower than the rest of the body, and you should be supporting the head and neck with your hand. The chest thrusts are done with two finger pads in between the baby's nipples. This should be done smoothly and not in a jerky motion. You should press down about a half to one inch and do this 5 times.

Abdominal thrusts, which are like the Heimlich maneuver, can be used on a child older than 12 months. You should place your fist (thumb side in the middle of the abdomen) just above the navel, and give 5 firm thrusts. With babies and children you can also look inside their mouth and if you see the blockage, you should try to remove it very carefully without pushing the object further into the throat cavity.  Quick certain motions are in order.

These are just the basics.  If your own first response within one minute efforts do not succeed, a call for help is in order.  Hollering for nearby help AND dialing 911 are in order.

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