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Choking prevention and first aid

Choking prevention and first aid: As Easter approaches and supermarket aisles fill with brightly foil wrapped chocolate eggs, a heart breaking warning posted on a parenting website serves as a stark reminder of the choking danger posed by mini eggs. These, and other small spherical sweet treats, are the same size as a child’s airway and thus pose a choking risk which could prove fatal.

The anonymous mum urged other parents to choose carefully when buying chocolate treats for their children, and to remain vigilant whilst their children eat them.

The grieving mum wrote:

“With Easter coming up I want to warn you all about another deadly choking hazard, one that tragically took away my precious little girl Sophie. She had choked on a mini egg and I was unable to dislodge it. I watched the light slip away from my babies eyes, I tried in vain to save her.”

She added:

“If just one person reads this and watches their toddler, child or teen extra close when eating these, my daughter’s death will not be in vain. I would love to have them removed from the shelves but I know this will not happen, but getting parents to be extra vigilant is the best I can do, please watch your babies.”

This account is a distressing reminder of how easily small, round foods can become choking hazards for young children.

In fact, 85% of choking deaths are caused by food.

We’re already aware some foods are classic choking hazards because of their size and shape, such as grapes. In fact, grapes are deemed such a risk that many schools and nurseries ban them from packed lunches. Think carefully when cutting carrots and other finger foods for children and avoid perfect circles – opting for batons instead.

Furthermore, foods such as mini tomatoes, blueberries, popcorn and the small decorations on the top of cupcakes are also lend frequent culprits as choking hazards,

However, many of us remain unaware some chocolate and sweets can also be choking hazards for precisely the same reason – they are the perfect shape and size to be inhaled into a windpipe.

Mini egg danger: Mini Easter eggs have a warning on the back of the packet which states the chocolate should not be consumed by children under the age of four. However, sadly Sophie the little girl who died was five, so care must be taken whatever the age of the child.

Additionally, it’s not just mini eggs. Indeed Maltesers and Smarties are other small spherical chocolate with the potential to be a choking hazard for very small children.

Here are eight common sense rules to follow to keep your family safe this Easter:

1. When selecting eggs choose larger, hollow eggs that are less of a choking hazard.

2. If the Easter egg does contain a smaller packet of sweets, be sure to cut these in quarters to reduce the likelihood of them blocking the airway.

3. Carefully supervise children whilst eating them.

4. Babies and young children can choke on anything small enough to fit through a loo roll. To prevent choking, keep small objects out of reach, cut food into very small pieces.

5. Refrain from competitions involving food. The popular game ‘Chubby Bunny’ where as many marshmallows as possible are stuffed into the mouth, has been responsible for deaths.

6. Never play games with food throwing them up in the air and catching them in your mouth, or someone else’s mouth.

7. Talking, laughing or crying with something in your mouth can also lead to choking. The sharp intake of breath which happens when you gasp, is sufficient to propel an object from your mouth into your airway.

8. Don’t eat or chew whilst exercising.

A further hidden danger of sweets and choking has been highlighted when children or adults first wear fixed dental braces. As their tongue and teeth adapt to the new appliance, their usual ability to control food items in the mouth – including chocolate treats – is severely reduced and has led to instances of choking. Extra care needs to be paid to this period of adjustment.

How to respond if you come across a child or adult choking
Many choking accidents occur simply though bad luck. They can happen quickly and be extremely worrying. Knowing how to respond quickly, calmly and effectively is invaluable and could save a life.

How to help adults or children (over the age of one) who are choking

Choking is life-threatening and is recognised when a child is unable to speak or cry and is struggling to breathe.

Please don’t panic though. Although choking is very common and extremely frightening, it is still comparatively rare that it proves fatal.

Therefore, remain calm and encourage them to clear it themselves by coughing.

Back Blows

  • If they are unable to cough; bend them forward supporting their chest with your hand. Children can also be bent over your knee.
  • Perform up to 5 back blows, checking between each to see if the blockage has cleared before repeating.
  • If the obstruction hasn’t cleared after 5 back blows, phone 999 or get someone else to and start abdominal thrusts.

Abdominal thrusts

  • Try abdominal thrusts. Stand behind the person choking and place one hand in a fist under their rib cage. Use the other hand to pull up and under, to dislodge the obstruction. Think of it as a J-shaped motion to pull up and under their rib cage.
  • Perform abdominal thrusts up to 5 times, checking each time to see if the obstruction has cleared.
  • If the casualty is still choking, call 999 (or 112) and alternate five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until emergency help arrives.
    If at any point the person becomes unconscious, start CPR.

For our guide to CPR click here.

Never perform abdominal thrusts on a baby. For our blog post on helping a choking baby, child or adult click here.

If you want to have a look at our free choking course click here.




Emma Hammett
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