Published: Monday 28 December 2020

Sadly, each month in the UK a child dies from choking. Many more need medical treatment.

Of course, the younger the child the more at risk they are principally because they’re still prone to exploring things especially with their mouths, and this is a particular problem with small objects found around the home. However there are ways to reduce the risks:

  • Make sure any small food items such as grapes, nuts and sweets are both kept out of reach and avoided until children are at least 4 years old.

Other objects that should be kept out of reach include:

Don’t forget that some toys - especially those designed for older children - can have smaller parts that, if broken off or loosened, can present a choking hazard. Also be aware of children running with items or food in their mouths.

What to do if a small object is swallowed

Fortunately, in the majority of situations, things that are swallowed will make their way through the body but if there appears to be breathing difficulties including coughing it could mean that the object has gone into the windpipe so you should seek medical attention immediately.

If the child is awake and breathing, simply encourage them to breathe, whilst calling for medical help. It is important to remember not to slap them on the back or put your fingers into their mouth to try to retrieve the object as this could push it further down or cause further harm.

If the child is unable to dislodge the item by themselves and medical help is not immediately available, follow these steps:

For children and adults

Step 1 – Back Blows

  • Shout for help
  • Lean the child forward over your knee or just leaning forwards
  • Give up to 5 firm back blows in between the shoulder blades with the palm of your hand, checking in between to see if the obstruction has dislodged.
  • This will usually clear most small objects in children and adults

Step 2 - Abdominal Thrusts

  • If this is not successful place your arms around the waist of the casualty facing away from you
  • Make a fist shape with one hand and place it above the belly button. Grip this fist with the other hand.
  • Pull in and up firmly up to five times.
  • Stop if the obstruction clears.
  • If the object has not cleared call for help, ring 999 and repeat steps 1 and 2.

For Babies Under 1 year

Step 1 – Back Blows

  • Shout for help
  • Lay the baby over your arm or lap, face down supporting the head and neck.
  • Give up to 5 blows in between the shoulder blades with the palm of your hand, checking in between to see if the object has dislodged.
  • This will usually clear most small objects in babies.

Step 2 - Chest Thrusts

  • If this is not successful turn the baby over, lower the head below the level of the chest
  • Place 2 fingers in the centre of the babies chest (breast bone) and press slowly five times. These are called chest thrusts.
  • Check the mouth in between each one to see if the object has cleared.
  • Stop if the obstruction clears.
  • Never perform abdominal thrusts on a baby

We trust that you will never have to use these instructions but if you would like to be completely prepared if a choking incident should occur, join us on our First Aid for Parents or Paediatric First Aid for professionals courses.

Currently we are not running face-to-face courses for parents and families, but do have an online version of the course. This is a brilliant way to learn at your own pace. Take a look here to find out more. Book before the end of January 2021 and pay just £15 (usually £25).

We also offer all our courses as a bespoke, in-house option too, so you can either train a team or a group of friends at a venue of your choice. If you have any questions, please do give us a call on 01273 702 496 or email us.

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