Emergency Care For You

Choking: What to Do for an Infant

Few sounds are more alarming than that of a child who is choking. Understanding how to prevent choking, as well as what to do when choking occurs, can save a life.

Nearly 4,000 men, women and children in the United States die from accidental choking each year. Nearly two thirds of children who choke to death are three years of age or younger. Most of these deaths can be avoided. The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) offers these tips to help prevent incidences of choking:

  • "Supervise mealtimes for young children," said Dr. David Vukich of ACEP. "Many choking cases occur when older brothers or sisters offer unsafe foods to a younger child. Some foods that can cause choking include hot dogs, nuts, chunks of meat, grapes, hard candy, peanuts, popcorn, chunks of peanut butter and uncooked vegetables."
  • Avoid toys with small parts and keep other small household items out of reach of young children. Balloons are particularly dangerous.

Treating Choking Infants

"If a child is choking, first find out if the child can breathe, cry or speak," said Dr. Vukich. "A strong cough generally means little or no blockage, and the child may be able to dislodge the blockage by coughing. Only begin first aid if the child cannot breathe at all, or the child's airway is so blocked that there's only a weak cough and a loss of color."

According to ACEP, the ways to properly treat choking victims, especially children under age four, are first aid that everyone should learn-to help people breath easier.

Conscious Infant (Under 1 Year Old)

  1. Support the head and neck with one hand. Place the infant face down over your forearm, head lower than torso, supported on your thigh.
  2. Deliver up to five back blows, forcefully, between the infant s shoulder blades using the heel of your hand.
  3. While supporting the head, turn the infant face up, head lower than torso.
  4. Using 2 or 3 fingers deliver up to five thrusts in the sternal (breastbone) region. Depress the sternum 1/2 to 1 inch for each thrust. Avoid the tip of the sternum.
  5. Repeat both back blows and chest thrusts until the foreign body in expelled or the infant becomes unconscious.