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My Child is Choking!

By Mara P. Paradis, M.D.

My Child is Choking image

Most parents have or will experience their child choking. It is a scary situation that requires quick action.

Choking is the one of the leading causes of accidental deaths among children under 1 year of age and continues to be of great concern until 5 years of age. The two most common causes of pediatric choking are food and the ingestion of foreign objects. Boys Town Pediatrics recommends that parents take the following safety precautions to help minimize the risk of choking:

  • Remove choking hazardous toys and objects from their child’s reach
  • Supervise meal times
  • Monitor your child’s chewing and swallowing capabilities
  • Avoid “high-risk” foods in infants and young children

High risk choking foods include:

  • Hard, smooth food that the teeth must grind – peanuts, raw veggies, hard candy
  • Round, firm foods larger than ½ inch – whole grapes, popcorn, meat chunks
  • Chewing gum

In addition to food, choking can be caused by things that your child may place in his or her mouth. It is important that parents check floors, under tables and play areas and remove any marbles, paperclips or dog food or other small objects that may have fallen by mistake.

What to do if your child is choking

If your infant is choking and you can see the object, remove it with your finger. Do not do a blind sweep in an attempt to remove a non-visualized object. If you cannot see and remove the object, hold your infant face down on your forearm. Thump him firmly five times on the middle of the back using the heel of your hand. If the object is not dislodged, hold him face up on your forearm with his head lower than his trunk and with two fingers on the breastbone, give five chest compressions.

If you are unable to dislodge the object with this maneuver, call 911. Repeat the above until emergency services arrive. If your infant loses consciousness, start CPR.

For older toddlers and children who are choking, give abdominal thrusts (the Heimlich maneuver). If you are unable to dislodge the object, call 911. If your child loses consciousness, start CPR.

Understand that life saving procedures vary depending on a child’s age. Parents are encouraged to speak with their pediatrician or contact the local safety council for more information on basic first aid, CPR and live saving classes.

Physician Follow-up

Consult with your pediatrician regarding the introduction of solid foods to your child’s diet. If your child is having frequent problems chewing, swallowing or experiencing pain while eating, talk to your pediatrician. It is possible that your child is experiencing a swallowing disorder, or has not yet developed the proper muscles to chew or swallow.​