Know What to Do When a Child is Choking

Choking is a leading cause of injury or death among children, especially for those under the age of four. Eva Love, M.D., explains what parents need to know when it comes to choking dangers and what to do if choking occurs.

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CLEVELAND – Choking is a leading cause of injury or death among children, especially for those who are under the age of four.

On average, one child will die from choking every five days in the United States.

Eva Love, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, said parents need to be able to recognize when their child is choking.

“It is important to first recognize those signs of choking which would be that your child cannot breathe, make a sound, or cough,” said Dr. Love. 

The majority of choking-related incidents among children are associated with either food, coins or toys.

Because of their shape, size and consistency, some objects are more hazardous than others.

Dr. Love said parents should avoid letting their child have access to small non-food objects that could be choking hazards.

It’s also wise to never feed a baby something large that can be swallowed whole – like a grape, hot dog, or popcorn.

Dr. Love said if an infant begins choking, abdominal thrusts are not recommended, however, they can be used in children over the age of one.

For infants, parents should give a series of back blows and chest compressions first, followed by infant CPR if needed.

Dr. Love said it’s also important to avoid sticking a finger in a baby’s mouth to try and remove an object.

“It’s important for parents to understand that if they do see that foreign body, that they do not perform a finger sweep in the mouth to pull it out, because they could actually be pushing that foreign body back to the back of the throat,” she said. 

Dr. Love said it’s a good idea for all parents to learn rescue efforts, including the Heimlich maneuver and CPR, and practice them in a controlled setting on a doll with the help of a professional.

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