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Baby and Child First Aid

Questions and answers about giving first aid for achild who is choking

Here are some questions people often ask. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please feel free to email us at firstaid@redcross.org.uk or use this form.

Q

How will I be able to tell if my child is choking?

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If a child is choking, they may be clutching at their chest or neck and won’t be able to speak, breathe or cough.

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Q

How hard should the back blows I give be?

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You should change the force of the back blows depending on the size of the child. You need to be much gentler with a smaller child than with a larger child. The force you use to deliver the back blows should also be relative to your own strength.   The back blows need to be hard enough to dislodge the object.

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Q

How will I know for definite when the obstruction has been cleared?

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On most occasions, you will see it coming out of their mouth and the child will start to breathe again. You can also ask them if they are feeling better and they will let you know whether the object has moved or not.

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Q

Is it a good idea to give a choking child a glass of water or something to eat?

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No, it’s not a good idea as it will not dislodge the object and may make the situation worse by causing a further blockage.

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Q

What happens if the object goes down into the lung rather than coming out the mouth?

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It’s not ideal, but it can be dealt with in hospital. The important thing is that the airway is clear so the child can breathe again.

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Q

Should I try to pull the object out with my fingers?

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We do not recommend putting your fingers blindly into their mouth to try and remove any foreign object. You risk pushing the object further down or actually damaging the soft, sensitive tissue at the back of the throat, which could swell and cause further harm. However, if you can clearly see an object in a child's mouth and you are able to pluck it out safely with your fingertips, you could do so.

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Q

What should I do if my child becomes unresponsive and stops breathing?

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If a child is choking, should I hang them upside down by their feet?

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No, this is not effective and may cause further injury if you happen to drop them. Tipping them upside down may also move the object further down their throat.

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Q

How do I treat a baby who is choking?

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