How to deal with choking is the most common question we get asked about on our Paediatric First Aid training courses.

Whether it’s weaning or a toddler eating a whole grape, this is a mine field for parents and carers. The chances of some of this food going awry is almost inevitable. Knowing what to do in the event of a blockage to the airway essential.

Start by reviewing the situation.

  • Have they been eating?
  • Have they put something in their mouth?
  • Is there something no longer on the floor that was there a second ago?

There are two types of blockages – partial and complete.

A partial blockage involves coughing, and if an infant starts to cough and splutter whilst drinking or eating, then the survival instinct of the child has kicked in. Give this a chance. Often, they will and can clear it. Help by leaning them forward and allow them to cough it out.

If you don’t hear coughing and spluttering, their face goes red then deep purple, the lips go blue this could be a complete blockage.

Encourage them to cough, if this doesn’t work, lean the infant/child* over your arm/lap and administer up to five back blows to the middle of the shoulder blades with them pointing downwards, use gravity to work with you. And I mean blow, not pat; it needs to move the item!

If this doesn’t work, then chest thrusts (infant) or abdominal thrusts (child) are needed, both of which are highly invasive – medical advice should be sought after performing these procedures. Repeat until the item is dislodged or until help arrives.

CALL 999

If the child becomes unresponsible or is not breathing, start administering CPR until help arrives.

* Infant is a baby aged between birth and 1 year and child is from 1 year to puberty.