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Choking

When a child is choking, it can be a pretty scary situation. But if you know how to respond, in most cases the outcome is favorable and a life can be saved.

Children can choke on many things, from small toys to food. Debbie Coshatt, a nurse educator in the Patient Health and Safety Department at Children’s of Alabama, said if a child is coughing but not choking, stay nearby and encourage them to cough.

A child may be choking and need immediate help if he or she:

  • Opens mouth and can’t breathe
  • Is gasping or wheezing
  • Demonstrates universal sign of choking (hands to throat)
  • Turns blue or pale

If you see these signs, ACT FAST!  This is an emergency situation.

How to help a child who is choking
If the child is over the age of one, immediately perform abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich maneuver). Coshatt explains the procedure is very easy. “You’re going to go right above the belly button, make a fist and do inward and upward motions,” she said.

This is actually simulating a cough for the child who is choking.  Coshatt said parents should never be intimidated to perform this procedure. The key is to act fast and be firm.  Don’t worry about injuring the child who is choking. The goal is to get the object out quickly so they can breathe.

How to help a baby who is choking
If the child is under one year old, perform back blows and chest thrusts. Lay the baby across your arm, face down. It’s best to be seated so you can rest your arm on your leg. Do five back blows with the heel of your hand in the middle of their back between the shoulder blades, then carefully turn the baby over protecting the head and neck, and perform five chest thrusts using your two or three fingers in the middle of their chest. To do a chest thrust, press straight down on the chest about 1 1/2 inches. Then allow the chest to come back to its normal position. You will complete the five back blows and five chest thrusts until the object comes out or if the baby starts to cough, forcefully cry, or breathe on its own.

Coshatt said these procedures are highly effective and in most cases the object comes out quickly without having to call for emergency assistance.

If at any time the baby or child loses consciousness, call 911 immediately.

There are things parents can do to help prevent a choking incident.

Preventing Choking:

-Make sure kids eat while seated

-Avoid laughing, playing while eating

-Don’t allow children under five to have hard candies or nuts

-Watch for small household items or toys that can pose a choking hazard

-Foods like hot dogs, carrots and grapes should be cut length wise and crosswise to prevent choking

Remember, it’s not just a small child who can choke.  Older children and adults can as well.

Coshatt said the most critical thing for parents to realize is the importance of taking action quickly and not being afraid to help. In most cases, a life can be saved.

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