Choking can be a very scary, dangerous and life threatening situation. When an object, such as a small toy or food, becomes stuck in a child’s airway (trachea) it blocks the airflow from entering or leaving the lungs, causing the child to choke. When their air passage is blocked, it’s impossible for the child to breathe properly. Most of the time, the object or food only partially obstructs the airway and is naturally coughed up, which allows breathing to quickly return to normal. However, when the object remains in place, someone will need to intervene on behalf of the choking child.
Anyone caring for your child should be prepared in the event that they find themselves in a situation where someone is choking, to include parents and nannies. The best way to prepare for a choking emergency is to complete pediatric first aid training.
What is Pediatric First Aid Training?
During a medical emergency, first aid is the initial help administered to a child or individual while waiting for the medical assistance to arrive. In the worst cases, first aid can mean the difference between life and death. Pediatric first aid focuses on the techniques to be used in the event of a medical emergency involving an infant or child, such as choking.
A child might be choking if they:
- are not able to breathe.
- are wheezing or gasping.
- are unable to cry, talk or make a sound.
- turn blue.
- grab at their throat or neck and wave their arms.
- appear panicked, become unconscious or limp.
What to Do When Your Child is Choking
Any individual with children should become certified in both the Heimlich maneuver (abdominal thrusts) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Even if you don’t have children, understanding how to properly administer these first-aid techniques will come in handy if you’re ever in a situation where someone is not breathing or choking. Most importantly, anyone caring for your children should be trained in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. Both of these life saving techniques are taught in basic first aid training courses.
What is the Heimlich Maneuver?
The Heimlich maneuver (abdominal thrusts) cause an abrupt burst of air to be pushed up from the diaphragm through the trachea. This sudden burst of air will dislodge the foreign object blocking the airflow, sending it flying up into the mouth and clearing the airway to permit unobstructed breathing.
Although the Heimlich maneuver is fairly simple, abdominal thrusts must be administered with caution, especially when administered to young children with small bodies. Abdominal thrusts are safest when administered by an individual trained to perform the Heimlich maneuver. When abdominal thrusts are performed improperly, the choking person could be physically harmed (particularly a baby or child). There’s a particular version of the Heimlich maneuver recommended for infants that is designed to lower the risk of injury.
How to Prevent Choking
Any child can choke. However, children under the age of three are especially prone to choking. Young children have smaller airways than adults and they are more likely to place small objects in their mouth.
How to minimize the risks of choking:
- Start by avoiding high-risk foods that are more likely to cause a child to choke, such as grapes, nuts, raw carrots, raisins, hard candy, chunks of meat or cheese, spoonfuls of peanut butter, and popcorn). These foods are comparable in shape and size to a child’s airway and are more likely to become stuck in the air passage.
- When feeding your child, serve their food in small, age appropriate pieces. Be sure to cut grapes into small quarters, meat into bite sized pieces (removing any skin), and whenever possible cook vegetables.
- Always choose age-appropriate, safe toys and be sure to obey the manufacturer’s age restrictions and recommendations. Many toys have tiny pieces that heighten the risk of choking. If you need help determining if a toy is too small for a child to play with, try passing it through an empty cardboard toilet paper tube. If it passes through without a problem, it’s too small for a child under the age of three to play with. Any item or toy smaller than the size of a ping pong ball has the potential to be a choking hazard.
- Small household items and toys also can be choking hazards. Beware of toys with small parts, beads, deflated balloons, coins, buttons, and batteries. If you have small children learning to crawl or walk, be sure to check the floor for hidden small items. You’d be surprised to see how many things that fall out of pockets or off counters and end up on the floor.
As with other forms of first aid, training is essential when performing this technique. The technique of abdominal thrusts and CPR are taught as part of the HSS basic pediatric first-aid courses. If you are not trained in CPR or the Heimlich maneuver, ask anyone in the general area if they are trained in these life-saving techniques. If you believe someone is choking, you should also immediately call for medical assistance.
The time to prepare is now. Pediatric first-aid and CPR courses are a must for parents, babysitters, nannies and other caregivers. When it comes to the safety and well-being of your child, you can never be too careful. At HSS we offer first aid classes for parents, nannies and maids. Contact us today to learn more about our first aid certification courses.