What to do if your child is choking

What to do if my child is choking

First aid knowledge not only allows you to deal with day-to-day mishaps confidently but could even save your child’s life.

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We encourage all new and expectant parents to learn first aid as a safeguard for their family. Thinking of your child in a harmful situation isn’t nice for any parent but, thankfully, learning these skills will give you the confidence and willingness to act should something happen.

Choking is a major concern for parents and one the British Red Cross gets asked about repeatedly. Small children are naturally inquisitive and like to put objects in their mouth; unfortunately this can lead to choking incidents. Thankfully the majority of choking situations are resolved with effective back blows. Read the information below and make yourself familiar with the procedure.

To watch a video on what to do if a baby is choking visit: www.redcross.org.uk

  1. Give up to five back blows. Hold the baby face down along your forearm with their head lower than their bottom. Hit them firmly on their back between the shoulder blades. If back blows do not dislodge the object, move on to step two. The back blows create a strong vibration and pressure in the airway, which is often enough to dislodge the blockage. Dislodging the object will allow them to breathe again. Ensure you support their head while you hold them in the position described above.
  2. Give up to five chest thrusts. Turn the baby over so they are facing upwards and place two fingers in the middle of their chest just below the nipples. Push inwards and upwards up to five times. If chest thrusts do not dislodge the object, repeat steps one and two. Chest thrusts squeeze the air out of the baby’s lungs and may dislodge the blockage.
  3. Call 999 if the object has not dislodged after three cycles of back blows and chest thrusts.

To watch a video on what to do if a baby is choking visit: www.redcross.org.uk

For a child (one and above):

  1. Give up to five back blows. Hit them firmly on their back between the shoulder blades. If back blows do not dislodge the object, move on to step two. This creates a strong vibration and pressure in the airway, which is often enough to dislodge the blockage. Dislodging the object will allow them to breathe again.
  2. Give up to five abdominal thrusts. Hold the child around the waist and pull upwards and inwards above their belly button. If abdominal thrusts do not dislodge the object, repeat steps one and two. Abdominal thrusts squeeze the air out of the lungs and may dislodge the blockage.
  3. Call 999 if the object if the object has not dislodged after three cycles of back blows and abdominal thrusts.

Further Information

Now you’ve read the facts you can explore child first aid videos. It'll take you just a few minutes to learn what to do in 20 different first aid situations, from choking and meningitis to burns and broken bones. www.redcross.org.uk/childrenfirstaid

Parents believe the best method of learning first aid is through face-to-face learning. Our courses cover a range of subjects, from choking to unconsciousness and burns to meningitis. 

Alternatively phone 0844 412 2808.

The British Red Cross recently launched the First Aid Challenge. The campaign challenges parents and grandparents to join in the nationwide drive to learn first aid. Thousands have already signed up, including celebrities such as Konnie Huq, Stacey Solomon and Imogen Thomas. Learn these vital skills by signing up for free at www.redcross.org.uk/firstaidchallenge

Have a look at our article British Red Cross first aid questions and answers for parents for the most commonly asked questions about choking in children.

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