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What to do if a child is choking

Choking is extremely common and very frightening, but rarely fatal: 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 and always supervise children when eating.

A child is choking if they are unable to speak or cry and struggling to breathe.

What to Do if a Child is Choking

Back Blows

What to Do if a Child is Choking

  1. Encourage them to clear the blockage themself by coughing.
  2. Perform 5 back blows – bend the child forward and support their chest. With the other hand give a firm back blow between the shoulder blades.
  3. Check to see if the blockage has cleared before repeating.

Abdominal Thrusts

If the obstruction hasn’t cleared after 5 back blows, phone 999 and start abdominal thrusts.

To do this, stand behind the child and place one hand in a fist under their rib cage. Use the other hand to pull up and under the ribs in a J-shaped motion, to dislodge the obstruction. Perform abdominal thrusts up to 5 times, checking each time to see if the obstruction has cleared.

What to Do if a Child is Choking

What to Do if a Child is Choking

  • Anyone who has received abdominal thrusts should be seen by a doctor.
  • Never perform abdominal thrusts on a baby, use chest thrusts instead.
  • Keep alternating five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until emergency help arrives.

If at any point the child becomes unconscious, commence CPR.

First Aid for Life and onlinefirstaid.com provide this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made or actions taken based on this information. The best way to be prepared for action in an emergency is to attend a practical first aid course or do one online.

Emma Hammett
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