Here we share first aid tips you can use if a child aged one year to puberty is choking.
Choking is one of the most common first aid concerns for parents. The prospect of seeing your child in distress in this way can be very worrying.
Watch this short video to see what to do if your child starts choking.
What do you do if your child starts choking?
1. Give up to five back blows
Hit them firmly between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. If back blows don’t dislodge the object, move on to step two.
2. Give up to five abdominal thrusts
Hold them around the waist and pull sharply inwards and upwards, above their belly button.
3. Call 999 if the object does not dislodge
Frequently asked questions
How will I be able to tell if my child is choking?
If a child is choking, they won’t be able to breathe, cry, cough or make any noise at all. They may also be clutching at their chest or neck.
How hard should the back blows be?
You should modify the force of the back blows depending on the size of the child. You need to be much more gentle with a baby, or smaller child, than you are with a larger child. The force with which you deliver the back blows should also be relative to your own strength. The back blows need to be hard enough to dislodge the object.
Should I try to pull the object out with my fingers?
No, putting your fingers blindly into the mouth to try and remove any foreign object is not recommended. You risk pushing the object further down or actually harming the sensitive soft tissue at the back of the throat, which could swell and cause further damage. However, if you can clearly see an object in a child's mouth and you are able to pluck it out safely with your fingertips, you could do so.
How will I know for definite when the obstruction has been cleared?
In the vast majority of occasions, you will see it coming out of the mouth and the child will start to breathe again. If they’re old enough, you should ask the child if they’re feeling better; they will give you an indication of whether the blockage has moved or not.
What happens if the object goes down into the lung rather than coming out the mouth?
It’s not ideal, but it can be dealt with in hospital. The important thing is that the airway is clear so the child can breathe again.
Is it a good idea to give a choking child a glass of water or something to eat?
No, it’s not a good idea as it will not dislodge the object and may make the situation worse by causing a further blockage.
What should I do if my child becomes unresponsive and stops breathing?
Find out how to help your child if they are unresponsive and not breathing in our article about CPR.
Last updated June 2016
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NCT and the British Red Cross run First Aid courses for parents with babies and children up to 12 years old on life-saving topics, such as CPR, bleeding and what to do if your child is choking. Find your nearest course.