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

asian baby crying

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 how to apply proper first-aid treatment for child

In some cases, choking incidents in infants must be brought to the closest medical facility. Calling a private ambulance service can be of great help.

What is Choking

Baby playing with a toy in his mouth

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

A baby with food in his mouth

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

Baby mannequin lying face down on a parent’s thigh for choking infant

Back blows are a known life-saving first-aid technique to alleviate choking for both adults, kids, and infants. Here is how to deliver back blows for children below 1-year-old.

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

A woman performing chest thrusts on choking infant.

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

Performing CPR on baby mannequin

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

A baby crying

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

Back blows for your infant must be delivered with enough pressure and in a swift manner. Think of each blow as being sharp-- quick and strong.
If your child starts coughing out the object of obstruction and can seemingly breathe comfortably again, then the blockage on their windpipe has cleared.
It is highly discouraged to give something to a choking infant, even a glass of water. Doing so can even cause further harm to your child or make the situation worse than it already is. It is best to stick to providing back blows and chest and abdominal thrusts as these are proven and tested to alleviate choking.
If in case the object or item does not come out of the mouth, take the child to the hospital. In cases like these, it is still a relief that your child is out of imminent danger. The important thing is that they can breathe normally again. Other concerns will be dealt with in the hospital.
The last thing you would want to do is to put your fingers inside your child’s mouth and try to pull the object out especially if you cannot see it. Doing so can lead to further blockage, or cause swelling on your child’s throat. However, there is an exception to the rule. If you can see the object inside your child’s mouth, you can put your fingers inside and carefully fish the item out of their mouth.
Perform CPR immediately when you notice that your child has stopped breathing and has become unresponsive.

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.

About Medlink Healthcare Group

Committed to providing a comprehensive healthcare ecosystem, Medlink Healthcare Group delivers top-notch ambulance services, first-aid courses and industrial paramedics. We aim to empower individuals, businesses and communities to effectively respond in times of medical emergencies, right when it matters the most.

Our first aid courses cover a wide range of topics, including a CPR + AED course, BCLS course, occupational first aid course, and a standard first aid course in Singapore—both accredited by SRFAC. Whether you’re an individual looking to acquire life-saving skills or a business investing in workplace safety and health training, we have the right course for you.

Alongside training programs, our private ambulance services are led by highly trained paramedics and equipped with cutting-edge medical technology. Every second counts; we are always ready to provide prompt and expert care when you need it most. 

Our industrial paramedics solutions can also meet the unique needs of your workplace, from on-call doctors to screening exercises and specialised clinics. We ensure that you have access to the right medical services to keep employees safe and sound, no matter where they are. 

Your journey to safety starts with us. Contact us today and prepare to respond in any emergency.

This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for a comprehensive first-aid course provided by certified professionals. Readers are strongly encouraged to acquire a first aid education to receive the appropriate training and certification.

We do not assume responsibility for any actions taken based on the information provided in this article. Always consult with certified first aid professionals and seek hands-on training to ensure you are well-prepared to handle emergency situations competently.

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