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How to deal with a choking child

child choking

How to save a child from choking

This is a skill that ALL parents should know.  Choking is particularly scary because it's silent.  


The British Red Cross do not recommend putting your fingers blindly into a child's  mouth to try and remove a foreign object as you risk pushing the object further down.

However, if you can see an object in a child's mouth and you are able to safely remove it with your fingertips, you could do so.

If your child is coughing loudly, you don't need to do anything. Encourage them to cough and stay with them until they have recovered.

If your child’s coughing is not productive (if it’s silent or the child can’t breathe in properly), shout for help immediately and decide whether they’re still conscious.

If your child is still conscious, but they’re either not coughing or their coughing is not effective, use back blows.


How to perform back blows on a choking child

If the child is small enough, lay the child face down on your lap in the same way that you would do with a baby.

If this isn't possible, support your child in a forward-leaning position and give five back blows from behind.

If back blows don't relieve the choking and your child is still conscious, perform abdominal thrusts. This will create an artificial cough which will increase pressure in the chest and help to dislodge the object.


How to perform abdominal thrusts on children over one year old

Stand or kneel behind your child. Place your arms under the child’s arms and around their upper abdomen.

Clench your fist and place it between the child's navel and ribs.

Clasp your other hand around your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards.

Repeat up to five times.

Make sure you don't apply pressure to the lower ribcage, as this may cause damage.

Following abdominal thrusts, reassess your child as follows:

If the child is still conscious but the object still hasn't dislodged, continue with abdominal thrusts.

Call out or send for help.

Don't leave the child alone.

Even if the object has come out, obtain medical assistance. Part of the object might have been left behind, or your child might have been hurt by the procedure.

What to do if a child is unconscious with choking

If a choking child becomes unconscious, put them on a firm, flat surface and shout for help.

Call 999, putting the phone on speakerphone so your hands are free.

Don't leave the child at any stage.

Open the child's mouth. If the object is clearly visible and you can grasp it easily, then remove it.

Begin CPR (read how to perform CPR on a child).


For advice on how to save a baby (under the age of 1) from choking, read this guide.

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