What to do if your child is choking

What to do if your child is choking is a guest post by Sarah Hunstead at CPR Kids.

Introducing solids to your baby is a significant milestone in every family’s journey. It can be a fun and fabulously messy experience. However it often brings one of the most common parenting fears to the forefront – what do you do if your child is choking?

Firstly, you need to be aware that choking and gagging are not the same. Choking is a medical emergency, when an object (anything that can fit into an old-school film canister!) blocks the airway (breathing tubes) either completely or partially. Different from choking, gagging is completely normal – the gag reflex helps prevent choking. So how do you tell the difference?

A child who is gagging may cough, turn red in the face, have watery eyes, and their tongue may push out the offending bit of food, or they may have a small vomit. The key is that your child won’t be too distressed by this, they will gag and then happily keep eating. A child who is choking will look scared. They may have an ineffective cough or be silent, and if the object isn’t cleared quickly, they will start to turn blue. They need your help very quickly!

What to do if your child is choking

When it comes to choking, here are 4 essential things you need to know:

1. Chop up the grapes (and sausages too)!

A child’s airway (breathing tubes) are smaller than an adult’s. This makes them more susceptible to getting objects stuck. A grape is the perfect size to lodge in a child’s airway, and are incredibly difficult to get out once stuck. Always chop up the grapes into quarters when giving them to your little one, or just squish them with your fingers. As long as they are no longer circular they are less likely to get stuck. Don’t forget to chop the cherry tomatoes too, and avoid cutting the sausages into circles, chop them into batons instead.

2. Sit down to eat

Good luck with this if you have a toddler. You need the skills of a highly trained negotiator to keep a toddler at the table, however running around with food does pose a risk of inhaling the contents of their mouth. Make it a rule in your house that when eating, your little one must be on their bottom. You child will be more likely to stay put if you are sitting there too, so use the time to talk and connect together over the meal – a great habit to get into especially as they get older!

3. Stay where you can see them

Even though it may be tempting to have a quick shower or get something done in another room when your child is occupied eating (and strapped into the high chair to prevent escape), stay with them. Choking can be silent, so always stay where you can see them.

4. Know what to do if your child is choking

Most importantly, know what to do if your child does choke. Click on the link below to watch the CPR Kids video on the first aid for the choking child.

Don’t attempt to do abdominal thrusts (Heimlich manoeuvre) on a child, use back blows and chest thrusts as shown in the video. Remember, gagging is completely normal, choking is not.

Even though we can try and prevent accidents such as choking, it can still happen! We can’t wrap our children in cotton wool, and nor should we want to – they need to explore the world. However, following these simple tips can help prevent choking in your child, and most importantly, make sure you know the first aid care, just in case.

Learn what to do with the CPR Kids paediatric nurses and midwives: www.cprkids.com.au

About the author

Sarah Hunstead RN (B Nurs) MN is a Paediatric Nurse, a mother of two and Founding Director of CPR Kids.

Sarah has over 14 years experience in Paediatric Emergency Nursing, and is continually amazed by the things that children will get up to. With a love of lifelong learning, Sarah has a Masters Degree in Clinical Practice, and founded CPR Kids (her third baby after the 2 human ones) in 2012.

CPR Kids empowers families and carers of children to recognise and respond to their sick or injured child, with confidence. A life. A finger. A pea up a nose. A practical guide to baby and child first aid is Sarah’s first book. The title was inspired by her youngest daughter, who decided it would be a good idea to put a pea in her nostril. Sarah lives in Sydney with her husband and 2 daughters.

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1 Comment

  1. Kylie T
    3rd August 2017 / 5:34 pm

    A helpful article and video; thanks.

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