Choking may seem like a simple unintentional injury, but this accident can cause deaths in a matter of minutes. Anyone, from infants to young children of 1 to 8 years of age to adults, can experience this fatal circumstance, and it excuses no one.
If you are a parent of a young baby, you should be extra careful when it comes to giving food to your child. Making sure that the food you give them is digestible by their tiny teeth plays an important role in their safety and your sound mind.
Because choking is sudden and must be actionable within the first few minutes, one should know what to do in the event of it, especially if it happens to a child.
What is Choking
Choking happens when a foreign object, usually large chunks of food or toy, gets stuck in the windpipe and blocks the airway resulting in oxygen deprivation.
Choking is the leading cause of infantile deaths in the US. In Singapore, an estimate of 550 cases of choking in children has been noted every year.
Younger children and babies are at a greater risk of experiencing choking. This can be attributed to teeth development. Molars, the primary teeth used for chewing, grow later on. As a result, food is not chewed properly and can lead to choking.
The proper pathway for swallowing is through the esophagus or the throat. However, when kids play or talk while eating, food particles have the tendency to get into the trachea, more commonly known as the windpipe. When food enters the windpipe, it can obstruct the airway passage, leading to the child’s inability to breathe and loss of oxygen supply.
How to help a choking infant
Infants, or babies under 12 months of age, are especially vulnerable and helpless. Aside from being clueless about their situation, there is also the absence of communication. All you can do as a parent is to be alert and to exercise vigilance around your child in case something like choking occurs.
It is easy to get lost in fear and panic when you see your infant choking. A mere second can mean a lot in terms of saving a life, so make sure to maintain a calm demeanor for you to perform the procedures properly.
Remaining calm and acting immediately go hand-in-hand when it comes to saving someone from choking, especially a baby.
What to do to a choking infant
First things first, make sure that your baby is indeed choking. There can be a lot of misplaced energy in panic, and your baby may only be coughing or gagging before you realize it. Observe your baby for a few seconds and check for signs of choking.
If the baby is not crying, coughing, nor making noises, these indicate that your baby is indeed choking.
Call emergency help. If you are in the company of family or friends, have them dial in emergency services while you handle the baby. If you are alone with the baby, you will have to put the phone on loudspeaker so that you can relay to the operator the steps that you are doing.
Back Blows for Infants
For infants or babies under 12 months, you will have to hold them face down on your forearm. Place the baby in a parallel position on top of your left forearm if you are right-handed, holding the neck and chin of the baby carefully and not too tight. Utilize your thigh for supporting the baby while you hold them on your forearm.
Using the heel of your right hand, give 5 blows to the area between their shoulder blades. Make sure that each blow is quick and strong enough.
The back blows assert pressure on the baby’s airway which pushes the object to move out of their mouth.
Chest Thrusts for Children under 1 Year
After delivering back blows, you can now work on providing chest thrusts which further help your infant dislodge the item from the windpipe.
Turn your baby over and lay them on their back on your thigh. See to it that their head is lower than their chest. Locate the baby’s breastbone somewhere between and slightly under the nipples using your index and middle finger. Once you find it, press down on it five times. Make sure to deliver enough pressure with each press.
The chest thrusts aid the lungs in pushing air out to remove the obstructive object.
After chest or abdominal thrusts, reassess your child
After you have performed back blows and chest thrusts to your child, quickly re-evaluate the situation. Has your child stopped choking? Has the item been dislodged? If nothing has changed and your child is still choking, repeat the procedure from back blows to chest thrusts.
What happens when your child becomes unconscious
Your child can lose consciousness while you’re working on dislodging the item. At this point, you may be required to perform CPR on your child. Your child may be losing blood flow and oxygen circulation to the brain and other parts of the body, and CPR ensures that the flow continues so that no permanent brain damage occurs due to oxygen loss.
Perform CPR until help comes, or at least until your child gains consciousness.
Signs of Choking
Choking signs can determine how severe the blockage is. Airway blockage can be characterized into two: partial and complete.
Partial Airway Blockage
Partial airway blockage or mild obstruction is when your kid produces loud coughs, can breathe and can cry. While this is considered a mild obstruction, partial airway blockage can quickly escalate and become fatal if your baby fails to get enough air.
Complete Airway Blockage
Complete airway blockage or severe obstruction is when your kid is coughing silently, cannot breathe, is quiet, and is incapable of verbally responding to you. Furthermore, if you notice that your child’s skin is turning blue due to low oxygen levels, then they are suffering from complete airway blockage due to choking and must be given medical response quickly.
Both blockages are life-threatening and should be acted upon immediately.
At the end of the day, while your baby still needs a medical expert’s checkup, if you can save them from choking with the use of these steps, you have very much made all the difference.
Frequently Asked Questions
How hard should I deliver the back blows?
How will I know that the blockage has cleared?
Is it a good idea to give a choking infant a glass of water or something to eat?
What happens if the blockage goes down into the lung rather than coming out of the mouth?
Should I try to pull the object out with my fingers?
What should I do if my child becomes unresponsive and stops breathing?
If an infant is choking, should I hold them upside down by their feet?
No, it is not recommended to suspend your child upside down and hold them by their feet. This can only cause more injury if you drop them accidentally. Furthermore, the act can cause the object to move further down their throat instead of dislodging it.