First Aid for Choking

Learn how to administer the Heimlich maneuver if your child needs respiratory first aid.

What Causes Choking?

Choking happens when a foreign body is lodged in a child's respiratory tract, when the child is eating or playing, which leads to respiratory arrest. Choking can be caused when children swallow large pieces of food and when they put small objects (small toys, small stones, peas, nuts, and beads) in their mouths, up their noses, or in their ears, which causes irritation and discomfort.

Symptoms and Signs of Choking

The symptoms of choking are sudden coughing and difficulty breathing. A child may suddenly looks afraid, gasp, turns blue in the face, and quickly lose consciousness.

How to Prevent Choking

  • Follow age guidelines for toys to prevent young children from playing with small objects they can put in their mouth, nose, or ear.
  • Avoid foods that small children can choke on, such as pieces of hot dog, nuts, hard candies, raw carrots, popcorn, and whole grapes.
  • Learn CPR so that you can respond quickly and correctly if your child gets a foreign object in the respiratory tract.

How to Give the Heimlich Maneuver

For children over the age of one who have swallowed a foreign object, perform the Heimlich maneuver. Stand behind the child and put your arms around her chest. Bend the child slightly forward. Place one clenched fist on the child's abdomen, directly over the navel. Place the other hand over your clenched fist and press your two hands inward, quickly and hard, and slightly upwards into the child's belly. Repeat this until the foreign body has been coughed up or forced out. For babies, give back blows and chest thrusts. Support the baby's head with your hand. Hold the baby with his belly on your arm or lap, head down, and legs in the air. Give five firm blows to the back, between the shoulder blades. Turn the baby over. Again, holding the baby's head with your hand, give five chest thrusts with two or three fingers on the lower half of the sternum (breastbone). Repeat this until the foreign body comes out. If the child does not quickly recover after these actions or loses consciousness, call 911.

Objects Lodged in the Nose

If the child has a foreign object high up in his nose, try not to remove using any kind of instrument. Instead, ask the child to blow carefully out of the nostril that contains the lodged object while you hold the other nostril shut. If this does not dislodge the foreign object, seek medical advice. Get the child to breathe his mouth and discourage sniffing, which could cause the object to be pushed further up the nose, causing bleeding and ending up in the respiratory tract.

Objects Lodged in the Ear

If you can see the foreign object clearly in the outer part of the auditory canal, try to remove it using a small pair of tweezers. or use gravity by turning the child's head so the affected side is pointing down. Then, pull on the outer ear and wiggle the earlobe while the child shakes her head gently. If the foreign object is an insect, try pouring olive oil, mineral oil, or baby oil into the ear to kill the insect. In this case, turn the head so that the affected ear is pointing up; the insect will float upward. If you do not see the object easily, avoid removing it from inside the ear canal because this usually leads the item to be pushed further into the ear, which may lead to damage of the eardrum.

Always call 911 or the doctor if you suspect a foreign object has become lodged in the child's respiratory tract and if you are unable to remove the foreign object from the nose or ear canal.

Copyright ? 2012 Meredith Corporation.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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