Every parent’s nightmare is to see their little one choking on their food. This is a scary situation, and it’s important to know what to do in case of an emergency.
Choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death in infants, and it’s crucial to be informed about the right way to handle it. While choking can happen to anyone, babies and young children are especially vulnerable due to their small airways.
In this article, we’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on an infant, the differences between choking and gagging, when to call for emergency services, and tips for preventing future choking incidents.
Keep reading to learn what to do when a baby chokes on food, and how to protect your little one in case of an emergency.
Stay Calm and Act Quickly
Choking is a scary and potentially life-threatening experience for anyone, but especially for babies who are just starting to eat solid foods. If you’re feeding a baby and notice they’re struggling to breathe or making strange noises, it’s crucial to stay calm and act quickly.
The first step is to assess the situation. If the baby is coughing or gagging, it’s a sign that their airway is partially blocked and they may be able to clear it themselves. However, if the baby is unable to cough or breathe, it’s important to take immediate action to clear their airway.
The third step is to attempt to remove the blockage. This can be done by giving the baby back blows or performing the Heimlich maneuver. If the blockage is not cleared after several attempts, it’s time to call emergency services.
Assess the Situation
Observe the baby’s breathing and coughing. If the baby is coughing forcefully and making noise, encourage them to keep coughing and avoid intervening. Coughing is a sign that the airway is partially open and the baby is trying to clear it.
Look into the baby’s mouth to see if you can spot any obvious blockage. However, do not blindly sweep your fingers inside the baby’s mouth, as this could push the object farther down the throat.
Assess the baby’s level of distress. If the baby is turning blue, not making any sounds, or appears to be in severe distress, you should intervene immediately.
Remember that time is critical when a baby is choking, so act quickly and confidently to prevent a life-threatening situation.
Performing Back Blows on an Infant
If you have determined that the baby is indeed choking, perform back blows on the infant as soon as possible. Back blows involve striking the baby’s back with the heel of your hand, and are designed to dislodge the obstruction from the infant’s airway.
Here’s how to perform back blows on an infant: Hold the baby face down on your forearm, supporting their head with your hand. Use the heel of your other hand to deliver firm but gentle blows to the baby’s back between the shoulder blades. Repeat up to five times if necessary, checking the baby’s mouth for the dislodged object after each set of blows.
If back blows are unsuccessful in dislodging the object, you may need to perform the Heimlich maneuver. However, before doing so, it’s important to ensure that the infant is at least 1 year old, and that they are not unconscious or have compromised airway.
Performing Chest Thrusts on an Infant
When back blows don’t work, chest thrusts may be required. Position the baby face-up on your forearm, making sure to support the head and neck. Place the other hand on the baby’s back and gently tilt the head downwards. Use the heel of your hand to deliver up to five chest thrusts between the infant’s nipples. Make sure the thrusts are smooth, quick, and delivered with enough force to dislodge the object, but not enough to harm the baby.
If the baby becomes unresponsive or unconscious during the chest thrusts, perform infant CPR. Place the baby on a hard surface and give 30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths. Repeat the cycle until emergency services arrive or the baby starts breathing on their own.
Remember that infant choking can be a life-threatening situation. It’s important to stay calm, assess the situation, and act quickly. Always call for emergency services if the object is not dislodged after performing back blows and chest thrusts.
Performing the Heimlich Maneuver on an Infant
Step 1: Assess the Situation
Before performing the Heimlich maneuver, assess the situation to determine if the infant is actually choking. If the infant is coughing or has difficulty breathing, but is still able to cry or make sounds, they are not choking and the Heimlich maneuver should not be performed.
Step 2: Position the Infant
Position the infant face down on your forearm, with their head lower than their chest. Support the infant’s head and neck with your hand, and make sure their mouth and nose are not blocked.
Step 3: Deliver Up to 5 Back Blows
Using the heel of your hand, deliver up to 5 back blows between the infant’s shoulder blades. Check the infant’s mouth after each blow to see if the object has been dislodged. If not, proceed to the next step.
Positioning the Infant Correctly
When performing the Heimlich maneuver on an infant, it’s important to position the infant correctly to ensure the effectiveness of the technique. First, sit down and hold the infant face down on your forearm, with their head slightly lower than their chest.
Next, use the heel of your hand to give up to five firm blows to the infant’s back between their shoulder blades. Then, turn the infant over so they are facing upwards and place two fingers in the center of their chest just below the nipple line.
Using your fingers, give up to five firm chest thrusts to the infant. If the object causing the choking still has not been dislodged, repeat the back blows and chest thrusts until the object is removed or emergency services arrive.
Performing the Heimlich Maneuver on an Infant
Performing the Heimlich maneuver on an infant is a serious matter, and it should only be attempted if the infant is choking and is unable to breathe. If you think the infant is choking, it’s important to act quickly and calmly.
Step 1: Check for Signs of Choking
Before performing the Heimlich maneuver on an infant, it’s important to check for signs of choking. Look for the following signs:
- The infant is unable to cry or make sounds
- The infant’s lips and/or face are blue or purple
- The infant is not breathing or is having difficulty breathing
If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to act quickly.
Step 2: Position the Infant Correctly
Positioning the infant correctly is crucial when performing the Heimlich maneuver. Follow these steps to position the infant correctly:
- Hold the infant face down on your forearm, supporting their head and neck with your hand.
- Make sure the infant’s head is lower than their chest.
- Use the heel of your other hand to deliver firm, upward thrusts to the infant’s back, between their shoulder blades.
Step 3: Continue Performing the Heimlich Maneuver
If the infant is still choking after performing back blows, move on to the Heimlich maneuver. Follow these steps:
- Turn the infant over and place them face-up on your forearm.
- Use two fingers to locate the center of the infant’s chest, just below the nipples.
- Using the heel of your other hand, deliver five quick, upward thrusts to the infant’s chest.
Remember, if the infant is still choking after attempting the Heimlich maneuver, call emergency services immediately. Acting quickly and remaining calm can save an infant’s life in a choking emergency.
Calling for Medical Assistance
If the object is not dislodged from the infant’s airway with the above techniques, it is crucial to call for medical assistance immediately. In many cases, time is of the essence, and the situation can quickly become life-threatening.
When calling for help, provide your location, explain the situation, and follow any instructions given to you by the emergency operator. Stay on the line until help arrives and be prepared to provide any additional information that may be requested.
Remember that it is always better to err on the side of caution when dealing with an infant’s airway. If you are unsure of what to do, calling for medical assistance should always be your first course of action.
When to Call Emergency Services
Difficulty breathing: If the person is having trouble breathing or stops breathing, call emergency services immediately. This can be caused by choking, asthma, allergic reactions, or other serious medical conditions.
Loss of consciousness: If the person faints or loses consciousness, call emergency services immediately. This can be caused by a head injury, heart attack, stroke, or other medical emergencies.
Severe bleeding: If the person is bleeding severely and the bleeding cannot be controlled with pressure, call emergency services immediately. This can be caused by a serious injury or medical condition.
Suspected poisoning: If the person has ingested a toxic substance or is showing signs of poisoning, call emergency services immediately. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, seizures, difficulty breathing, or loss of consciousness.
Unconsciousness After Choking
If the person becomes unconscious after choking, call emergency services right away and follow these steps:
- Assess: Check for breathing and pulse. If absent, begin CPR.
- Clear: Open the person’s mouth and look for any visible blockages. If you see one, try to remove it with your fingers.
- Chin lift: Tilt the person’s head back and lift their chin to open their airway.
If the blockage is still present, continue to perform CPR until medical help arrives. Time is critical in these situations, so act quickly and calmly.
Turning Blue After Choking
If an infant has been choking and suddenly turns blue or stops breathing, it is a medical emergency that requires immediate action. You should perform the Heimlich maneuver or back blows and chest thrusts until the object is dislodged or medical help arrives.
If the infant is still not breathing after the object has been removed, you should immediately begin performing CPR. Call emergency services and continue CPR until help arrives.
It’s important to note that turning blue after choking is a sign of oxygen deprivation and can quickly lead to brain damage or death if left untreated. Time is of the essence, so it’s crucial to act quickly and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Difficulty Breathing After Choking
If someone is having difficulty breathing after choking, it is important to call emergency services immediately. Obstruction of the airway can cause swelling or damage to the respiratory tract, making it difficult to breathe. While waiting for emergency services to arrive, encourage the person to sit upright and lean forward to help clear the airway. If the person is unconscious, begin CPR immediately.
Other signs of difficulty breathing after choking may include wheezing or a high-pitched noise when breathing, gasping for air, or rapid breathing. These are all signs that the airway is partially or completely obstructed, and the person is not getting enough oxygen. It is crucial to act quickly in these situations to prevent further damage or potential death.
Do not attempt to give the person food or liquid, as this can worsen the obstruction. Additionally, avoid giving the person medications or attempting to remove the obstruction with your fingers or any tools, as this can cause further damage to the airway.
Preventing Future Choking Incidents
Supervision: One of the most important things you can do to prevent choking in children is to supervise them when they are eating or playing with small objects. Children under four years of age should not be given foods that are choking hazards, such as hot dogs, nuts, or popcorn.
CPR: It’s a good idea for parents and caregivers to learn CPR, especially if they are responsible for young children. Knowing how to perform CPR can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency choking situation.
Education: Educating yourself and others about choking hazards and how to prevent choking incidents can help keep you and your loved ones safe. Take a CPR course, learn the signs of choking, and keep choking first aid instructions on hand.
Keep Small Objects Out of Reach
Children are naturally curious and like to explore their surroundings. They often put things in their mouths as part of this exploration, which can lead to choking. To prevent future choking incidents, it’s important to keep small objects out of reach. This includes small toys, buttons, coins, and other small items that can fit into a child’s mouth. Make sure to regularly check your child’s environment and remove any small objects that could pose a risk.
Another way to prevent choking is to choose age-appropriate toys. Toys with small parts or pieces that can easily break off should be avoided for children under the age of three. Additionally, toys that are designed for older children should be kept out of reach of younger children.
It’s also important to educate your child about the dangers of putting objects in their mouth. Teach them that only food should go in their mouth and that other objects can be dangerous. Supervision is also key, especially when your child is young and still exploring their surroundings.
Choking Vs. Gagging: What’s the Difference?
Choking is a serious medical emergency that occurs when an object gets lodged in the airway, preventing air from reaching the lungs. This can lead to a lack of oxygen and potentially life-threatening complications. Common causes of choking include food, toys, and other small objects that can easily be inhaled or swallowed.
Gagging, on the other hand, is a reflexive response to something touching the back of the throat. It is the body’s way of preventing something from being swallowed that shouldn’t be. While gagging can be uncomfortable and even distressing, it is typically not life-threatening and does not require medical attention.
It is important to know the difference between choking and gagging so that you can respond appropriately in an emergency situation. If someone is choking and cannot breathe, immediate action is required to dislodge the object and restore breathing. On the other hand, if someone is gagging and is able to cough or clear their throat, they do not require emergency medical attention.
Choking in Infants
Prevention: Infants are at a higher risk of choking because they are still learning to chew and swallow properly. To prevent choking, make sure to cut food into small, bite-sized pieces and avoid giving hard or round foods like nuts, popcorn, or hard candy. Always supervise infants while they are eating and keep small objects out of reach.
Signs of choking: Infants may have difficulty breathing, coughing, or gagging when choking. They may turn blue or red in the face, and their eyes may water or bulge. Infants may also become very still or unresponsive if they are unable to breathe.
What to do: If you suspect an infant is choking, call 911 immediately. Try to remove the object with your finger if it is visible and loose in the mouth. If the infant is unconscious, start CPR and continue until medical help arrives.
Gagging in Infants
Gagging is a reflex that helps prevent choking and is a normal part of infants’ development. It occurs when food or liquid touches the back of the throat, causing a spasm-like contraction of the muscles in the back of the mouth. Infants often gag when they are introduced to solid foods or are learning how to chew.
Gagging is not the same as choking, as the infant can usually clear the object from their airway on their own. However, parents should always supervise their child while eating and be prepared to act quickly in case of choking.
If your infant gags frequently during feedings or seems to have difficulty swallowing, it’s important to talk to their pediatrician to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the common causes of choking in babies?
Babies can choke on food, small objects, or even their own vomit. It’s important to be aware of what your baby is putting in their mouth and supervise them closely during mealtime.
What are the signs that a baby is choking?
The signs of choking in babies can include difficulty breathing, coughing, gagging, and turning blue. If your baby is showing any of these signs, it’s important to act quickly and seek emergency medical attention.
What should you do if your baby is choking on food?
If your baby is choking on food, it’s important to stay calm and act quickly. You should remove any visible objects from their mouth, and then perform back blows or chest thrusts until the object is dislodged or emergency help arrives.
How can you prevent your baby from choking on food?
You can prevent your baby from choking on food by cutting food into small pieces, avoiding foods that are hard or round, and supervising your baby closely during mealtime. It’s also important to keep small objects out of their reach.
What are some first aid measures to take if a baby is choking?
If a baby is choking, it’s important to take immediate action. You should remove any visible objects from their mouth and perform back blows or chest thrusts to dislodge the object. If the baby is unconscious, call emergency services immediately.
When should you seek medical attention after a choking incident?
If your baby has choked on food and you were able to successfully remove the object, it’s still a good idea to contact your healthcare provider for advice. If your baby experiences any ongoing symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, coughing, or fever, you should seek medical attention immediately.