First Aid for Choking

When your child can't breathe, every second counts. Here, lifesaving tips you must know.

In an Emergency


Every year, thousands of children -- most of them under 4 -- choke on pieces of food, toys, and household objects. More than 200 of these children die. Babies and toddlers are at greatest risk because they have a natural tendency to put things in their mouths, they can't chew well, and their small upper airways can easily become obstructed. Fortunately, choking deaths are preventable (see related articles at right). Here's how to keep your child safe.

In an Emergency.

When a child gags on a drink or a piece of food, she will often cough forcefully enough to clear her airway. Don't slap her back or reach into her mouth with your fingers while she's coughing; it could push the object farther down her windpipe.

If your child can no longer speak, cough, or cry, and her face starts turning blue, you must intervene immediately. Have someone call for help while you begin first aid. If you're alone, follow these steps for one minute before calling 911 (or your local emergency center).

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