What To Do When Your Child Is Choking by Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

7 min read

Written by Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

What To Do When Your Child Is Choking

Parents are always the protective shield for the kids. They wish to be with the child always so that the child doesn’t get hurt or no accidents happen. However, in reality, constant monitoring is not possible. There comes a time you must leave your child alone and allow them to become independent and more confident. Children are at an exploratory age, and the only way they can get a full experience of teaching is by putting this in their mouth. So, what to do when your child is choking?

As parents, we know that there are many unsafe situations for children. They can get hurt while playing, they can play with something unsafe, they can even choke when they put something in their mouth too. They are too young to understand that such a habit is unsafe and causes choking. Almost every parent goes through the situation at least once where children choke themselves.  This is definitely an emergency situation and every parent should be equipped to handle it. Scroll down to know everything. pregnancy pillow

In This Article

What is Choking?

Choking is a situation where food or any other foreign object partially or completely blocks the airway, making breathing difficult. Generally, choking can lead to a coughing outburst. In certain cases where the block is full, it can be fatal as well.

Is Choking a Cause of Emergency?

Choking is a medical emergency. If the airway block is not cleared immediately, it can even lead to death. It may take time to reach the hospital or a doctor. In the meantime, first aid and block clearing are crucial.

  • Choking is a medical emergency in the following conditions.
  • The child is wheezing and is short of breath.
  • They are not able to make any noise, cry, or even talk.
  • The skin, lips, and slowly the entire face are turning blue.
  • The child is holding their throat and asking for help by moving their hands.
  • They are in a state of panic.
  • The child is letting out squeaky sounds when breathing.

Read: []

What is Meant by Abdominal Thrusts?

Abdominal thrusts are popularly known as the Heimlich maneuver. There is a widely accepted first aid for choking, and every parent can learn this to prepare for emergency situations. This technique helps clear the obstruction in the food pipe or the air pipe. The process may look simple, but must be done carefully, especially with children. Only a trained person must perform this maneuver.

So, how to do an abdominal thrust? The person performing the thrust forces air through the diaphragm that dislocates the object stuck and pushes it away from the mouth. If you wish to learn this technique, you can consult your pediatrician or a nurse, who will guide you and teach you how to do it.

There are a few things to keep in mind when learning or planning to do an abdominal thrust for choking.

  • The Heimlich maneuver helps clear the air passage or food pipe.
  • You can perform this technique on a person who has choking or has become unconscious due to choking.
  • Do not try this on an infant who is under one year of age. Instead, rush them to the nearest hospital immediately.

What Action Should Be Taken?

first aid for chocking

Young children are very explorative and experiment with nature. This is one reason why they try to put things in their mouth, though sometimes it’s intentional, while for others it can be an accident. In both cases, choking can occur and can put the child in danger. But remember, choking doesn’t happen every time your child puts something in their mouth.

Having said that, let us learn what action to take when each of the following conditions happens.

1. If a Child is Choking and Coughing But Can Breathe and Talk

This situation indicates that the entire airway passage is not blocked, and the condition of the child will be better once the coughing bout is over. Follow the steps given below:

  • Never try to take out the object from the mouth as it can further move the object down, worsening the situation.
  • Stay calm and composed and support the child.
  • Take the child to nearby medical facility.

2. If a Child is Conscious But Can’t Breathe, Talk, or Make Noise, or is Turning Blue

This situation requires the use of abdominal thrusts to dislodge the choking object.

  • Call for emergency.
  • Give an abdominal thrust yourself or take help from somebody.
  • In case you are not trained in the maneuver, and there is no one to help, wait for the emergency to arrive.

3. If the Child Was Choking and is Now Unconscious and No Longer Breathing

This situation is critical, and you need to rush to the emergency ward of the hospital.

  • Call for help immediately.
  • Start administering CPR instantly if you are aware of how to do it.
  • In case you are not aware and so is nobody else around to help, wait for the medical help to reach.

[Read : CPR in Babies: Steps And Precautions]

Tips to Prevent Choking in Children

What To Do When Your Child Is Choking

If you want to protect your child from choking while eating, here are some tips:

  • It is more likely for your child to choke while eating when they are lying down, running around or playing, so sitting at a table or even on the floor will decrease the risk. Sit with them and talk to or entertain them. Then, they won’t get up and run around so much.
  • Choking risks can be reduced if children are taught to chew and swallow properly and to eat slowly.
  • Never give the child big chunks of food until they are able to chew well.
  • Give your child food in pieces smaller than a pea.
  • Never let the child eat while traveling in a vehicle.
  • Hard fruits and vegetables, such as carrots and apples, can be cooked, grated or mashed.
  • If your child is under three years old, do not let them eat whole nuts or similar hard foods.
  • Choking risks also exist with corn chips, marshmallows, lollipops, and grapes.
  • Encourage the child to eat with a fork and spoon. This helps young children eat slowly. On the other hand, eating with hands makes it easy for kids to put too much food into their mouths at once.

Tips That Will Help You Prevent Your Child From Choking Around the House

  • Do your best to keep small objects out of reach of the child.
  • Avoid toys with small parts, breakable pieces or surfaces that are brittle or flimsy.
  • Choose toys that are sturdy and solid.
  • Get down to a child’s height and look around for small objects on the floor and remove them.
  • Always purchase toys according to the manufacturer’s recommendations for age.
  • Throw away or recycle all old batteries, especially button batteries.
  • Don’t purchase toys that use button batteries.
  • Toys for small children should be kept separate from those for older siblings.
  • Store all batteries away from the reach of children.
  • Let your kids understand the dangers of swallowing pencils, crayons, and erasers when coloring or drawing.
  • Teach older siblings to keep their little toys like Lego, doll clothes, beads, and car parts, etc., away from younger siblings.
  • Children should not have access to refrigerator magnets.

[Read : Battery Safety For Infants]

What is the Right Time to Call the Doctor or Rush to Emergency?

What Action Should Be Taken_

Choking hazards are becoming common with passing time, despite parents being extra careful. Children are very unpredictable and can get into sudden problems owing to their high curiosity levels and inquisitiveness. In case the choking issues become serious, you must call the doctor or rush to the emergency department in the following situations.

  • The child is suffering from persistent coughing, breathlessness, wheezing, eating issues, or breathing issues.
  • They show signs of unconsciousness, turn blue, or are stumbling.
  • The child might have swallowed a small toy piece, battery, etc.

Choking no doubt is an emergency situation. When the child is choking, look for signs such as the child becoming unconscious and breathless. If your child is just coughing and appears slightly breathless but otherwise seems OK, you need not panic. To be on the safe side, at least one person in every family should learn the Heimlich maneuver so that any choking emergency can be immediately attended to.


1. Is it a Good Idea to Pound a Choking Child on the Back?

Vibration and pressure from back blows dislodge the blockage, often enough to clear the airway. In any case, it is important not to pound the child on the back if they are coughing. You may dislodge the object, which may allow it to slide deeper into your child’s airway.

2. When Giving Care to a Child Who is Awake and Choking, Where Should You Position Your Fist to Give Abdominal Thrusts?

A little above the navel, midway down the abdomen.

3. How Many Rescue Breaths Should You Give to a Child Who is Not Breathing Before Starting Chest Compressions?

Give 5 initial rescue breaths.

4. How Many Rescue Breaths Should a Child Have?

If a child or infant isn’t breathing, give 12 to 20 rescue breaths per minute. This is approximately one rescue breath every three to five seconds.

Read Also: Childproofing Your Home: Do It The Right Way by Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

Dr. Chetan Ginigeri,MBBS(JIPMER), MD (PGIMER), Fellowship PICU (Kings College London)
Head of Dept – Paediatric & Neonatal services, Aster CMI Hospital
17 years of experience

Dr Chetan Ginigeri is an experienced Pediatric Intensivist with national and international training. With 15 years of experience, he is one among very few Intensivists in India trained to take care of children who need/had organ transplants. He has been responsible for coordinating the Pediatric Organ Transplant program.Read more.

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