First Aid for Choking Child: Causes, Symptoms & How to Treats

Little Asian boy holding his neck in pain, Sore Throat

Choking can be viewed as a terrifying incident. What makes it terrifying is the fact that it can happen to anyone at any given time. Babies under 12 months, young children and grade-schoolers, adults, and even older people can all fall prey to this alarming accident.

A normal day can quickly turn into a nightmare when a seemingly innocent daily activity like your child eating or playing starts an incident of choking. And suddenly, you, as a parent, are out of sorts.

What can you do when your child starts choking out of nowhere?

As a parent you must act like an emergency responder when your child is choking. You must understand that every minute counts in securing their safety, and at that moment, you are the only person your child can count on.

What is Choking?

A choking child below 8 years old.

Choking is the result of a foreign object, usually a large chunk of food or a toy, blocking the airway and leading to oxygen deprivation and loss.

It may seem like a harmless incident to happen, but choking can cut off oxygen circulation to the brain and can result in permanent brain damage.

Choking is fatal and has been ranked as one of the leading causes of deaths among unintentional injuries in the US. Children are especially at high risk of choking. In Singapore, at least 550 cases of choking among children have been listed annually.

If you have kids at home, it would be best to learn proper techniques on how to handle choking so that you can provide immediate aid to them and save their life.

How to administer aid to a choking child

The Child Choked on Water from the Bottle When He Drank It in the Street.

The first thing you need to do when you suspect that your child is choking is to not panic. Panicking can only worsen any situation. Do not let your child see that you are starting to get scared or helpless. You need to be calm and assure them that things will go well. If you are calm, your composure will mirror them, and they too, won’t start to get scared of what’s happening.

Next, you need to verify that they are indeed choking. Talk to your child. Ask them if they are choking. If they can talk and are coughing forcefully, then they are not choking.

However, if your child starts gagging and can only communicate by making high-pitched sounds, then they are choking.

Choking Treatment for Children Age 1 to 8 Years Old

A parent performing heimlich maneuver on choking child

Call emergency services. Since choking can be deadly, medical attention must be provided to your child right away. While help is on the way, try out these steps on your own as you cannot waste any minute for your child’s survival.

Administering choking aid is different for adults and children. For children from 1 to 8 years old, you must perform abdominal thrusts in this manner:

  • Stand or kneel behind the child and wrap your arms around their waist.
  • Make a fist in one hand with the thumb tucked in.
  • Put your fist in the area below the chest and above the navel. This would be the abdomen and the target of your thrusts.
  • Tightly hold the fisted hand with your free hand.
  • Press into the abdomen quickly in an upward thrust. This should force the food or item out of your child’s mouth.
  • Continue to perform the thrusts until the food or the item comes out. Your abdominal thrusts should be characterized by two things: upward and inward.
  • If the object has been expelled, don’t forget to bring your child to the hospital and have a doctor take a look at them. This is to rule out the possibility of the food fragments and other pieces still being suspended in the lung.
  • If your child loses consciousness while you perform abdominal thrusts to them, quickly inform the operator you’re talking to from emergency services.

Signs of Choking

A child clutching their throat

Choking can be classified in terms of how severe the airway obstruction or blockage is. The symptoms can determine the severity of the blockage.

Partial Airway Blockage

Mild obstruction or partial airway blockage happens when your kid is coughing loudly, breathing, crying, and responds to you however little. While considered mild, it is not a matter that should be taken lightly. Any incident of choking should be acted on with immediate care. Within seconds, partial airway obstruction can be deadly once your child loses access to oxygen.

Complete Airway Blockage

Severe obstruction or complete airway blockage occurs when your kid is silent, is trying to cough but with no sound, cannot breathe, and cannot even respond to your questions even with the slightest sound. If their skin is starting to turn blue, your child’s oxygen levels are super low. At this point, you must act quickly with precision.

It only takes as little as 4 minutes for permanent brain damage to happen due to oxygen deprivation, which means you have less than 4 minutes to act. Make sure that you are thinking rationally and working fast enough.

Mild and severe airway blockages should be both taken care of immediately, as both are considered life-threatening.

Frequently Asked Questions

In giving abdominal thrusts, there are only two things that you need to remember. Do it in an inward and upward manner with just about enough pressure to force an object out.
You will know that the blockage has cleared once the object comes out of your child’s mouth.
Giving water to a child who is choking is highly discouraged. Gulping down water in the hopes that it could flush down the blockage is a huge misconception. With the airway completely blocked, drinking water can only aggravate the already bad situation. Similarly, giving something to eat to your child could be worse. It will not do anything to remove the blockage. It can only incur additional problems for you and your child. It is best to stick with doing abdominal thrusts as these have been medically proven and advised by health experts and emergency responders.
In the case that the blockage does not come out of the mouth but gets suspended further into the lung, bring your kid to the hospital. This circumstance will be dealt with by doctors. In any way, even if the obstructive item comes out of your child’s mouth, you still need to bring them to the hospital for further checking. This is so that doctors can confirm that no piece of the obstructive object has been left inside.
Unless you can already see the object, do not attempt to put your fingers inside your child’s mouth and try to pull out the object. Sticking your fingers inside your child’s mouth risks damaging their throat. Doing so can cause swelling and bacterial infection.
If while you are performing abdominal thrusts your child becomes unresponsive and appears to have stopped breathing, gently shake them and call them out. Inform the emergency services immediately of the situation.
Never hold your child upside down by their feet. This does not guarantee that the object will get dislodged. In fact, it can even suspend the item further down the lung, making things more difficult for you and your child. Furthermore, doing so can only cause head injuries if you are unable to bear their weight or accidentally let go of them.

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