Choking Is No Joke

A messy child eats breakfast in the kitchenYou’ve done everything you can think of to babyproof your home. You’ve consulted with other parents, parenting magazines, the Internet—but there’s always a risk that your baby could choke on a small object. If not at home, then there could be risky objects within your baby’s reach in your car, at a friend’s house or in a visitor’s purse. So, as a “just in case,” we’re going to address what to do if your baby is choking.

Not quite choking

If your baby has something caught in his mouth or throat, but can still breathe, he may cough or cry. Now is the time to act quickly to prevent the object from becoming lodged in his airway. Look into his mouth, and if you can see the object, you can try to sweep or pull the object out with your fingertips. If you can’t see the object, don’t put your fingers in his mouth—this could push the object further into his airway.

Signs that baby is choking

When an infant is truly choking, as opposed to gagging or coughing, he won’t be able to make a sound because his airway is blocked. This means there’s no noise to alert you to the danger, but there are signs of choking that you need to be familiar with:

  • His face darkens or reddens, and he may begin to turn blue around his lips.
  • He waves his arms, or tries to grab or scratch at his throat (without crying sounds).
  • His eyes are wide and staring, and/or his mouth is open and drooling.
  • He looks like he’s crying, but there’s no sound.

How to help

Seconds count, so be ready to act if your child can’t breathe:

  • Sit down and turn your baby face- down over your forearm or along your thigh, with his head lower than his bottom. Use the heel of your hand to hit him firmly on the back between his shoulder blades, up to five times. Then, check if you can see the object and remove it.
  • If the object hasn’t been dislodged after five hits, turn your baby over onto his back. Place your index and middle fingers in the middle of his chest, just below his nipples, and push sharply downward, up to five times. Check again if the object is visible.
  • If chest compressions don’t work, call 911 immediately and continue with back blows and chest compressions until the object comes out, or help arrives.

To be prepared, we encourage all parents to register for an infant CPR and choking first aid class. BayCare offers Infant and Child CPR classes that will teach you how to perform lifesaving CPR and choking rescue methods on infants and children based on American Heart Association guidelines.