If your child chokes, it’s an EMERGENCY

  • PublishedAugust 14, 2014

Child choke

Choking is a true emergency as it can cause the death of your child within minutes. This is because babies are at great risk of choking on small household items, as well as toys and food. Foods such as hot dog, big chunks of meat, sausages, fish with bones, popcorn,

fruits with seeds, carrots, lollipops, gum, chocolates, cereals, among others can cause choking in young children who have small trachea or windpipes, approximated to be about the size of a drinking straw in width. For example, a slippery hard sweet with a round shape about the size of a drinking straw could block a child’s windpipe.


Choking is caused by the inability to breath, and is identified by a child’s sustained, panic-stricken efforts to breathe and the inability to cry out or speak. Solid particles of food from the stomach may choke a child who breathes during vomiting. A baby who vomits is safest from choking if laid on his stomach.

A child may also choke temporarily on liquids that go down the wrong tube but spontaneous coughing and deep breaths quickly relieve the problem. If choking continues the child quickly becomes convulsive, limp and unconscious. Sometimes there is a frantic but unsuccessful effort to breathe. If the obstruction on the windpipe is complete, you  have between five and ten minutes to re-establish an airway to prevent the baby’s death. No child is ever spoiled by too much attention. It is lack of attention that spoils.

Do and don’ts when a child is choking…

Do not panic if a child appears to be choking. His normal cough will generally expel the object.

If the child is small, hold him up by the heels and give him a firm slap on his back. Do not slap him when he is sitting up as this may make him gasp and suck the object further into the air passage.

If this does not work place your child’s head over a chair or table, and pound on his back four or so times; it is better to heal a broken rib than have a dead child.

If you suspect that your child inhaled an object or pushed beads or nuts up his nose or ears, get medical help as soon as

If the child cannot breathe spontaneously after removal of the foreign object, apply mouth-to-mouth

Scream for help as a second adult on the scene can take up the responsibility of getting more help as you carry out first aid.

If all measures fail, consider reaching out into the child’s throat with a hooked finger in an effort to remove or dislodge the foreign body. You need to be extremely carefully to avoid pushing the object further into the windpipe.

Never give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the obstructing object is removed. To do so may force the object further into the throat.

Safety measures to avoid choking

Never leave a small child unattended while eating.

Encourage your children to eat food in an upright manner.

Do not hurry your children when they are having their meals as this could lead to choking.

Discourage your child from eating while riding, walking or playing.

Give your child small pieces of food or fruits and ensure you remove any seeds.

Pay particular attention to those foods, toys and household items that could cause choking to the child. Prevention of choking by foresight is very important.

Examine all toys for loose parts.

Peanuts, popcorns, rounded and hard sweets should not be given to toddlers.

Keep all tablets under lock and key.

Call the doctor when all fails

When obstruction is complete chances of survival are nil. However, your doctor may operate on the spot to open the windpipe through the neck (tracheotomy) then oxygen, artificial respiration, intravenous fluids and blood tests will be administered. The doctor will make the right decision to save the life of your child. You may be asked to leave the room if an emergency operation becomes necessary, as this may distress you.

Published in the January 2012 issue of Parents Magazine

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