What To Do When Your Child Is Choking

4 min read

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

Parents are always the protective shield for the kids. They want to be with them at all places possible so that the child does not get harmed; however, the reality is not so. There comes a time in each ones’ life where one must separate from the child so that he can also grow and become independent and more confident. As parents, they want the kids should always be safe wherever they are, whether it is under the guidance of a nanny, a day-care, etc.
This uncertainty of the child being unsafe can vary from the thought of the child getting injured, hurt and most of all, the child in a situation of choking as a little child is too small and has the habit of putting things in his mouth and the most dangerous of this symptom is that the child can end up choking and harming his own health. The problem of choking is a serious problem, and over the last few years, choking hazards with children are increasing and becoming common day by day.
Let us now understand what we mean by choking, if it is an emergency, what do we mean by abdominal thrusts, what to be done in different situations, and the right time to seek medical help or rush to an emergency.

What Is Choking?

Choking refers to a situation in which the airway in the upper part of the throat gets blocked by food or any other tiny object, that can prevent a person from breathing properly. Generally, choking can lead to a coughing outburst, but if it gets fully complete, it could be fatal, as well.

Is Choking A Cause Of Emergency?

Choking is like a life-death emergency.  In a situation of cramping, it requires immediate action to be taken by anyone who can. In such situations, the emergency team might even get late, which can be dangerous for the person suffering. Choking should be treated as an emergency under the following conditions, and they are;

  • If the child is wheezing and is short of breath.
  • The child is not able to make any noise, cry, or even talk.
  • The child starts becoming bluish by face
  • The child is asking for help by moving his hands or indicating by holding his throat.
  • He seems to be in a panic state.

What Is Meant By Abdominal Thrusts?

Abdominal thrusts are a form of a first-aid treatment that is given for the cure of the obstruction that is caused in the upper airway by any objects. This process, even though it is very simple, but one needs to be alert while performing them more importantly when done with children of a young age. It is advisable to get it by a trained person, since doing it in an incorrect manner, can be hurting for the patient. Under this technique, the person performing the thrust forces air through the diaphragm that dislocates the object stuck and throws it from the mouth. This procedure of abdominal thrust can be learned as a first aid-techniques at clinics, hospitals, etc.
There are certain facts that must be kept in mind while applying this technique, and they are:

  • It is done to help the air passage of a sufferer.
  • This should be carried on a person who has choking or consciousness issues.
  • It should not be tried on an infant who is under one year of age

What Action Should Be Taken?

Young children are very explorative and experimenting with nature. This is one reason why they try and put things in their mouth, though sometimes its intentional while for others it can be an accident. In both cases, choking can occur and can put the child in danger, but not always is a situation to be worried about. There are different cases that can happen, and we need to know how to tackle them. Some of them are listed as under:

1)  If A Child Is Choking And Coughing But Can Breathe And Talk

Under this situation, we should take the following steps:

  • This situation indicates that the entire airway passage is not blocked, and the condition of the child shall be better once the coughing bout is over.
  • 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

2) If A Child Is Conscious But Can’t Breathe, Talk, Or Make Noise, Or Is Turning Blue

This situation indicates using the abdominal thrust technique by yourself or someone who is trained on it.

  • Call for emergency
  • Give an abdominal thrust yourself or take help from somebody.
  • In case you are not equipped with the training, and there is none 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 one needs to rush out to an emergency. Apart from that, take the measures as below:

  • Start calling for immediate help
  • Start administering CPR instantly in case you are aware of the right process.
  • In case you are not aware and so is nobody else around to help, wait for the medical help to reach

What Is The Right Time To Call The Doctor Or Rush To Emergency?

Choking hazards are becoming common with passing the time despite the parents being extra careful. Children are very unpredictable and can get into sudden problems owing to the high curiosity levels and inquisitiveness. In case the choking issues become serious, below mentioned are the situations under which the child should be rushed to the Emergency Department.

  • In case the child is suffering from persistent coughing, breathlessness, wheezing, eating issues, or breathing issues.
  • The child shows signs of unconsciousness, has turned blue or stumbling.
  • The child might have swallowed a small toy piece, battery, etc.

Thus, choking no doubt is a situation of being alert and watchful, yet it is important to understand its severity, unless the child is unconscious, breathless, etc, it is not a sign of danger as choking happens in the normal course of life as well but many times an intense coughing bout can even cure it, so understanding when it is state of panic is very important so that the situation can smoothly be dealt with.

Dr. Chetan Ginigiri,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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