Signs of Choking
Choking occurs when something blocks the airway. When the airway is completely blocked, the child cannot breathe. Choking can be a frightening emergency. But if you act quickly, you can help the child breathe.
If the child can speak or cough loudly, the child’s airway is only partly blocked. You should not try to open the airway. If you are worried about the child’s breathing, call 991 or your local emergency number.
Signs of choking in the child with a completely blocked airway are:
- The child suddenly begins to cough, gag or have high-pitched, noisy breathing
- An older child may make the choking sign (holding the neck with one or both hands)
- The child has bluish lips or skin
Actions to Relieve Choking in a Child
When a child is choking and can’t breathe or speak, you must give abdominal thrusts (the Heimlich maneuver). The Heimlich maneuver pushes air from the child’s lungs like a cough. This can help remove the blocking object. You should give abdominal thrusts until the object is forced out or the victim becomes unresponsive.
1. If you think a child is choking, ask the child, “Are you choking?” If the child nods, ask, “Can you speak?” If the child can’t speak, cough loudly or cry, tell the child that you are going to help. Stand firmly behind the child and wrap your arms around him or her that your fists are in front of the child.
2. Make a fist with one hand.
3. Put the thumb side of the fist on the child’s abdomen, slightly above the navel and well below the breastbone.
4. Grasp the fist with your other hand and give quick upward thrusts into the child’s abdomen.
5. Give thrust until the object is forced out or the child becomes unresponsive.
If the choking is not relieved, the child will become unresponsive. When the child becomes unresponsive, shout for help, lower the child to the ground and start CPR. If someone else is present, send that person to call 991 (or your local emergency number) for an ambulance while you start CPR.
The steps of CPR of the child who has become unresponsive after choking are the same, with one addition:
1. Check for response. If unresponsive, send someone to call 991 while you start CPR.
2. Open the airway, check breathing. If there is no normal breathing, give two rescue breaths that make the chest rise. Every time you open the airway to give rescue breaths, open the mouth wide and look for the object. If you see an object in the throat, remove it. Do not spend a lot of time looking and do not perform blind finger sweeps. If you do not see an object, continue CPR.
3. Check for sign of circulation. If there are no signs of circulation, start chest compressions. Give cycles of five compressions and one rescue breath for one minute and then call 991. Give CPR as needed until the child responds or EMS rescuers arrive.
Chest compressions may force the object out. If you are alone with the child and these steps don’t work after about one minute, call 991.