What To Do If Your Child Is Choking

child eating grapes

Any parent who has ever experienced their child suddenly begins to choke while eating knows just how scary it can be. Even when parents try to do everything right, from cutting up food into small, bite-size pieces, to encouraging their child to eat slowly and chew their food completely, sometimes choking happens, especially with younger children who can be incredibly adventurous and curious.

Watching your child choke may take years off your life, but there are things you can do to help if you ever find yourself in that situation. As KidsHealth by Nemours explains, choking happens when something — either a piece of food or even an object — get caught in a child's trachea. While oftentimes children can cough up the object and return to breathing normally quite quickly, there are times when a parent or adult will need to intervene.

If you suspect your child is choking first try to ask them a question.

If a child is able to cough or speak the child isn't choking and will probably be able to dislodge the item themselves, Stanford Children's Health advises. However, if you ask your child if they're choking and they signal to you they are, or if they try to speak but can't make any noise, are gagging or making only a high pitched sound, they are choking. It's important that the parent in the situation remains calm despite feeling an intense sense of panic and ensure the child knows that help is coming.

If there is someone else with you have them call 911 while you help the child.

If it's just the two of you, Today's Parent suggests first attending to the child and then calling 911 if you're unable to help, as immediate treatment is crucial if a child is choking. If your child is between the ages of 1 and 8 and you think they're choking, experts state to stand behind the choking child and wrap your arms around their waist and then follow the guidelines below, as described by Stanford Children's Health.

  • Make a fist with one hand, thumb side in. Place your fist just below the chest and slightly above the navel.
  • Grab your fist with the other hand.
  • Press into the abdomen with a quick upward push. This helps to make the object or food come out of the child's mouth.
  • Repeat this inward and upward thrust until the piece of food or object comes out.

Even if the item is dislodged and your child seems to be breathing normally, it is advised to still take your child to a doctor to ensure there are no remnants of the object that may have broken off and is in your child's lung.

If the child is younger than one year old and begins to choke, call 911 immediately and then begin treatment. "Place the baby face down on your forearm. Your arm should be resting on your thigh. With the heel of your other hand, give the child five quick, forceful blows between the shoulder blades," Stanford advises. "If this fails, turn the infant on her back so that the head is lower than the chest. Place two fingers in the center middle of the breast bone, just below the nipples. Press inward rapidly five times. Continue this sequence of five back blows and five chest thrusts until the foreign object comes out or until the infant loses consciousness (passes out)."

Parents and adults are also advised against putting their fingers in the infants' mouth unless they can see the item that is stuck. Doing so may unwittingly push the item further down the trachea, causing it to get more stuck.

Watching a child choke can be a truly scary experience, but if you're aware of what to do, you can help prevent serious injury.

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