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First Aid for a Choking Child

Choking occurs quite frequently when food or even water happens to slip in the “wrong passage” as it’s commonly said. What happens is that the flap of cartilage known as the epiglottis which normally moves downwards when we swallow to keep food from going into the trachea or windpipe fails to do its job.

How do you recognize if someone is having a choking attack? The victim may clutch at his or her throat, and be unable to speak. Many times a choking victim is unable to breathe, as breathing becomes obstructed by the foreign body. The victim may have a fit of coughing, and the face and neck can become quite red, even turning to purple. If he or she is not helped in time, choking can even result in death.

Choking is disastrous for an adult, how much more for a child! It is a common cause of accidental death among children. How can you administer first aid to a choking child? The procedure is different to how you treat an adult. Normally for an adult, you have the victim lean forward, and give him or her about five hard slaps on the back, between the shoulder blades. If you have, or witness a child who is choking, sit down and lay the child across your lap. with the child’s head down. Slap the child firmly between the shoulder blades five times, with the heel of your hand.

If this action is unsuccessful, you need to administer chest compression. Turn the child over so he faces you on your lap. Give him five upward thrusts with one hand above his navel. If this fails to dislodge the foreign body, then try steps 1 and 2 again. The child may become unconscious. In this case you need to call ambulance or take the child to an emergency room immediately and begin resuscitation.

You should never use abdominal thrusts on a child who is younger than one year. Do not poke your fingers down the child’s throat in an attempt to dislodge the obstructing object. This should not be done to an adult either. You risk pushing the object in further and it then becomes more difficult to dislodge. If however the object appears in the victim’s mouth, then you may remove it gently.

If a baby is choking, you may either hold the baby upside down, or straddle the baby face down along your arm, and give it five slaps between the shoulders. If the choking continues, then turn the baby over, and place toe fingertips between the navel and the breastbone. You then press forward and downward in quick movements. Repeat the movement up to four times if this is necessary.

As in the case of an older child, if the baby loses consciousness, you need to seek medical help immediately and begin resuscitation.