Children especially between 1-5 years old often place objects in their mouth. This is how they explore their surroundings. Some small-sized objects such as beads, marbles and button batteries can easily get stuck in the airway and cause choking.
The ideal way to avoid this is to ensure that small-sized objects are stored out of reach of young children. No matter how careful most of us are, the child might choke on something. In most circumstances, you or someone else will see the child swallow the object that leads to choking.
There are also other reasons why the child starts coughing. Nevertheless, if the child abruptly starts coughing, not sick and has a habit of placing small objects in his/her mouth; there is a chance that he/she is choking.
Useful tips when helping a choking child
- If the object is seen, you can try to remove it. Avoid poking blindly or repeated using your fingers. Remember that this can make things worse by pushing the object further inside, thus making it harder to remove.
- If the child coughs loudly, there is no need to do anything. Encourage to continue coughing but stay with him/her.
- In case the coughing is not effective, call for help and decide whether he/she is still conscious.
- If the child is conscious, but not coughing or the cough is not effective, perform back blows.
Back blows for infants below one year old
You can sit down and position the infant face down on your thighs while supporting the head using your hand. Deliver up to 5 back blows using the heel of one hand in the middle of the back in between the shoulder blades.
Back blows for children over one year old
Position the small child facing down on your lap just like with an infant. In case this is not likely, you can support the child in a leaning forward position and perform 5 back blows on the back.
In case the back blows could not relieve the choking and the child are still conscious, deliver chest thrusts to infants below one year old or abdominal thrusts to children over one year old.
These create an artificial cough that increases the pressure in the chest and can help dislodge the object.
Assessment after chest or abdominal thrusts
In case an object could not be dislodged and the child is still conscious, continue the sequence of back blows and either abdominal or chest thrusts. Call for assistance if still on your own and do not leave the child.
Even if the object has been dislodged, it is vital to seek medical help. Remember that part of the object might have been left behind or the child might have been hurt by the procedure.
What to do for an unconscious child
If the child is choking or becomes unconscious, place him/her on a firm, flat surface and call out for help. Do not leave the child at any stage.
Open the mouth of the child. If the object is clearly visible and you can easily hold, remove it. Perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).