Did you know that choking is the fifth leading cause of unintentional death in children under the age of 5? Terrifying, right? Well, considering the fact that babies and toddlers tend to put all kinds of small items in their mouth besides food, this should come as no surprise. As research carried out by St. John Ambulance has shown, 40% of parents report they have witnessed their own baby choke on food, toys, and other small items. What’s even more alarming is that 80% of these parents were absolutely clueless about what to do in those moments.
Growing up, children start exploring their surroundings by touching everything around them and putting various toys and other small objects in their mouth. They actually try to “eat” every single thing that’s within their reach. Such behaviour can sometimes lead to episodes of choking and make parents undergo a few moments of terror.
Statistics show that every day over the last 10 years, 34 children were taken to the emergency room because of choking on food. Out of these, around 38 percent were babies one-year-old and younger, tending to choke on breast milk or formula. Candies were the cause for 1 in 4 ER cases, followed by meat bones, fruits, and vegetables.
At least 10 percent of children need hospitalization after choking. As a matter of fact, those who choked on hot dogs, seeds, or nuts were two to three times as likely to require it.
Warning Signs Your Baby Is Choking
- Your baby’s face is red.
- He or she turns blueish.
- He or she experiences difficulty breathing, labored breaths.
- He or she loses consciousness.
- Watery eyes.
- They’re unable to cry or make any sounds.
- Weak coughing.
- Soft or high-pitched sounds when inhaling.
How to Stop Your Baby From Choking
- Open your infant’s mouth and do a finger sweep by running your finger along the inside. Feel for any obstructions.
- Place your infant on your lap or forearm. Use your thigh or lap for support.
- Make sure their head is lower than their body and it’s facing down.
- Take a firm hold of your baby’s chest with your hand and hold the jaw with your fingers at the same time.
- Start giving them 5 gentle back blows with your palm between their shoulder blades.
- After each blow, check if the blockage has been removed.
In case the previous method doesn’t work, do the following:
1. Turn your baby face-up on your thigh or lap. Support the head.
2. Place 2 fingers on the middle of his breastbone, just below the nipples.
3. Give 5 quick thrusts, pushing down about ½ the depth of the chest.
4. Alternate between this and 5 back blows.
Provided that none of the suggested methods work or your child becomes unresponsive or turns blue, give infant CPR for 1 minute. Call 911 immediately following this (ideally, a second person would have done this while you first began giving aid). You can try to remove the stuck object with your finger, but only if you see it and only if the baby is unconscious.
Nevertheless, the best way to handle choking is to prevent it altogether.
Here are some simple tips on how to avoid this life-threatening situation, solely by taking preventative measures:
1. Children younger than 4 mustn’t be given any round, firm foods. If necessary, cut them into little pieces. Cut grapes into quarters.
2. Hard candy, nuts, seeds, balloons, buttons, or raw carrots are on the no-no food list for toddlers.
3. Don’t allow children to play, run, or lie down while eating.
4. Keep young children away from coins.
5. Always read the warning labels on toys! Many will warn of a choking hazard.
6. Learn CPR!
In order to learn CPR properly, it is best to take an accredited first-aid course held by a certified instructor. You’ll find that many hospitals, community centers, and local chapters of the American Red Cross and American Heart Association offer these classes. Usually, the instructor will use a child-size mannequin to demonstrate. Many people find it’s much better to attend a class in person, rather than just simply read about it in books. And it’s better to do it before the baby’s born, when you’ll not only have more time, but be prepared!
To find a local CPR class, visit The Red Cross or call (800) RED-CROSS.