What to do if a child is choking

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    It can be incredibly frightening if your child is choking and often difficult to know the best way to help. It is a scarily common problem but fortunately it is very rarely fatal. Knowing what to do can make a massive difference, allowing you to calmly and quickly resolve the problem.
    First Aid for Life
    To prevent choking: keep small objects out of reach, cut up food into very small pieces and supervise children while they’re eating, especially if they’re under five years old.

    How to help a choking child over 1 year.
    • If a child shows signs of choking, stay calm and ask them to cough to help remove the object. If this doesn’t work bend the child forward, supporting them on their chest with one hand.
    • with the other hand; use the flat of your hand to give a sharp back blow between the shoulder blades.
    • Check to see if the blockage has cleared before giving another back blow - give up to 5 back blows checking each time to see if the bloackage has cleared.
    • If the back blows haven’t helped I would get an ambulance on the way
    • If the blockage hasn’t cleared after five blows, try abdominal thrusts/Heimlich manoeuvre:
    • Stand behind the child and place one hand in a fist under their rib cage. Use the other hand to pull up and under in a J shaped motion to dislodge the obstruction. Perform abdominal thrusts up to 5 times, checking each time to see if the obstruction has cleared. Anyone who has received abdominal thrusts must be seen by a doctor.
    • If the child is still choking, call 999 (or 112) and keep giving alternate five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until emergency help arrives. If at any point the child becomes unconscious, commence CPR.
    First Aid for Life_Choking chart

    What to do when a baby is choking

    Clearing an obstruction – babies under 1 year
    • First look in the baby’s mouth and if there is something obvious in the mouth, remove it with finger tips.
    • DO NOT put your fingers down a baby or child’s throat, or finger sweep the mouth, as this can make matters worse by pushing the obstruction further down or by causing swelling.
    • Lay the baby downwards on your forearm or across your legs, supporting them under their chin and using the flat of your hand, give a firm back blow between the shoulder blades.
    • Give up to five back blows and check between each blow to see if the blockage has cleared. If the obstruction has not come out I would get an ambulance on the way
    First Aid for Life
    • If the blockage hasn’t cleared, lay the baby on their back, place two fingers in the centre of the chest just below the nipple line and give up to five chest thrusts.
    • Warning: Never do an abdominal thrust on a baby under a year as you could cause damage.
    • Check to see if the blockage has cleared between each chest thrust.
    • If baby is still choking, call 999/112 and continue alternate five back blows and five chest thrusts until emergency help arrives.
    • If at any point baby becomes unconscious, commence CPR.
    • If the obstruction comes out: 
    • If they are unconscious but breathing – put in the recovery position
    • If they are unconscious and not breathing start CPR
    • If they seem absolutely fine – ensure that they don’t have problems swallowing, check there is no pain or bleeding – it is always advisable to have them checked out by a medical professional. If it is not your child, ensure that you have contacted the parents.
    If the child has been given abdominal thrusts or chest thrusts, they should always be checked by a medical professional. It is strongly advised that you attend a Practical First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

    Please visit or telephone 0208 675 4036 for more information about their courses. First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.
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