03 Jul Infant or Child Choking
Know the risks
Do you know what the number one hazard for infant or child choking is? Hotdogs. Hotdogs cause more choking deaths than any other food. Dr Gary Smith, author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ choking policy statement, describes hotdogs as ‘the perfect plug for a child’s airway’. Other high risk foods for children include grapes, popcorn, and nuts. And here’s one you might not have thought of – those little solid chocolate Easter eggs that are the exact size and shape of grapes.
Even if you are vigilant about quartering grapes and cutting hotdogs lengthways, it’s virtually impossible to remove every choking hazard from a child’s curious reach. Coins fallen from pockets, older children’s small toy pieces, little pebbles… It’s developmentally appropriate for kids to put things in their mouths, so we have to be ready.
Know what to do
A partial blockage of the airway could cause a fit of coughing or gagging which may resolve the obstruction without assistance. If the child cannot dislodge the object themselves, you need to be ready to act. If the airway blockage is complete, the child will not be able to make any sound to attract your attention – this is the major reason why young children should never be left alone when eating. Again, you need to be alert, attentive, and ready to act.
If you are a parent, care for a child, or work with children, you should obtain at least basic first aid training. One of the critical elements of that training is how to respond to a choking situation. Possible techniques include firm back blows, abdominal thrusts (known as the ‘Heimlich Maneuver’), and the finger sweep.
Know what to do for infants
Infants are a special case. Their tiny airways, inexperienced mouths and the introduction of solid foods is a high risk combination. The National Safety Council advises that children under one year old require a different rescue procedure than adults or older children, and recommends alternating five quick blows between the shoulder blades with five two-fingered thrusts in the center of the breast bone.
Know how to make the difference
A child in the US dies from choking every five days, and another 12,000 are taken to the emergency room for treatment for choking. Kids choke, and it happens a lot. Imagine if everyone knew what to do in case of infant or child choking. There’s really no way of knowing for sure, but here at HeartShare, we like to think those numbers would go down, and more of those children would be alive.