Choking is a real concern with babies and young children

Children, particularly those aged four and under, are renowned for putting almost anything and everything in their mouths. It is easy for parents to become a little complacent when you see you child’s confidence grow during their transition to solid foods. But there is no mistaking the sickening feeling of watching your little one fighting for breath. It takes just seconds for their life to hang in the balance and the paralysing fear can leave you feeling helpless.

Here’s what to do if your child is choking?

St Johns Ambulance Australia offers this step-by-step guide:

  1. Encourage the child to cough to try and dislodge the object
  2. Call triple zero if that doesn’t work or the child is an infant
  3. Bend the patient forward and give five blows to the back between the shoulder blades with the palm of your hand – check between each blow to see if the object has dislodged
  4. If the object is still blocking the airway, give up to five chest thrusts by placing one hand in the middle of the child’s back for support and heel of other hand (or two fingers for infants) in the CPR compression position – again check airway between each attempt
  5. If still unsuccessful keep alternating steps three and four (five back thrusts then five chest thrusts) until the ambulance arrives

If the child is unconscious…

  1. Call an ambulance
  2. Remove any object you can see in the mouth
  3. Begin CPR.

Prevention is best

While it is vital we all know what to do should we see a child choking, it is important to remember there are steps we can take to avoid disaster.

Kidsafe offers the helpful tips for prevention of choking.

When giving children food

  • Don’t give children foods that are able to break into small hard pieces such as pieces of carrot, celery and apple – it is safer to grate them or partially boil them to make them soft
  • Meats with course outer skins such as sausages and frankfurts need to be cut into small pieces with the skin/fat removed
  • Stringy meats such as chicken and steak should be cut into small pieces or minced
  • Don’t give small children popcorn, nuts, whole grapes, hard lollies, corn chips or other similar foods

And remember…

  • Always stay with your young child when they are eating
  • Ensure your child is sitting quietly when eating and paying attention
  • Never force young children to eat

Non-food choking hazards

  • Any object smaller than a table tennis ball can be a choking hazard and should be kept well out of reach of young children
  • Pen tops are a common choking hazard so look for pens that have holes in the lids
  • No matter how difficult it is, it is important to keep older children’s toys away from young children even if it means separate play areas
  • When buying toys, look carefully at them for choking hazards

And remember…

  • Toy labels stating what age they are suitable for don’t reflect the intelligence needed to use the toy, but indicate the safety of the product
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