Watching a child gasping for breath is one of the most frightening things imaginable. Knowing their pain is probably numbing.
Young children love to put things in their mouths. Every year more than 17,000 children are taken to the emergency room for choking related incidents. Eight out of ten of these are under four years old.
We all hope we’ll never be put in the position of having to save a child’s life, but it could happen. Children test their physical limits and get caught in all kinds of dangerous situations. They choke on food, fall off bikes and play equipment, and wade into water unsupervised.

This step-by-step guide explains the basics of first aid for choking and CPR, but please don’t rely on it as your sole source of information. Set aside a few hours to take an infant and child CPR course to learn and practice the proper techniques. These techniques differ depending on the age of the child, and doing them improperly can be harmful.

Choking methods for 1 year and older:

Step 1: Assess the situation quickly.
If a child is suddenly unable to cry, cough, or speak, something is probably blocking her airway, and you’ll need to help her get it out. She may make odd noises or no sound at all while opening her mouth. Her skin may turn bright red or blue.
If she’s coughing or gagging, it means her airway is only partially blocked. If that’s the case, let her continue to cough. Coughing is the most effective way to dislodge a blockage.
If the child isn’t able to cough up the object, ask someone to call 000 or the local emergency number as you begin back blows and abdominal thrusts (see step 2, below).
If you’re alone with the child, give two minutes of care, then call 000
On the other hand, if you suspect that the child’s airway is closed because her throat has swollen shut, call 000 immediately. She may be having an allergic reaction — to food or to an insect bite, for example – or she may have an illness, such as croup.
Also call 000 right away if the child is at high risk for heart problems or if you witnessed the child suddenly collapse.

Step 2: Try to dislodge the object with back blows and abdominal thrusts.
First do back blows
If a child is conscious but can’t cough, talk, or breathe, or is beginning to turn blue, stand or kneel slightly behind him. Provide support by placing one arm diagonally across his chest and lean him forward.
Firmly strike the child between the shoulder blades with the heel of your other hand. Each back blow should be a separate and distinct attempt to dislodge the obstruction.

Give five of these back blows:
Then do abdominal thrusts
Stand with one foot in front of the other, or kneel behind the child, and wrap your arms around his waist.
locate his belly button with one or two fingers. Make a fist with the other hand and place the thumb side against the middle of the child’s abdomen, just above the navel and well below the lower tip of his breastbone.
Grab your fist with your other hand and give five quick, upward thrusts into the abdomen. Each abdominal thrust should be a separate and distinct attempt to dislodge the obstruction.
Repeat back blows and abdominal thrusts
Continue alternating five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until the object is forced out or the child starts to cough forcefully, speak, cry, breathe, or becomes unresponsive. If he’s coughing, encourage him to cough up the object.

If the child becomes unresponsive:
If a child who is choking on something becomes unresponsive, you’ll need to do a modified version of CPR:
Place the child on his back on a firm, flat surface. Kneel beside his upper chest. Place the heel of one hand on his sternum (breastbone), at the center of his chest.
Perform 30 compressions by pushing the child’s sternum down about 1/3 depth.
Open the child’s mouth and look for a blockage. Never put your finger in his mouth unless you actually see a blockage. If you can’t see one and you put your finger in his mouth, you might accidentally push the object deeper into his throat. If you see something, remove it with your fingers, when the child is on his side.

If you’re unable to remove the blockage and the child is still unresponsive, give him two rescue breaths, like this:
Tilt the child’s head back with one hand and lift his chin slightly with the other. This will open his airway. Pinch the child’s nose shut, place your mouth over his, and exhale into his lungs until you see his chest rise.
If don’t see the chest rise, repeat the cycle of giving 30 compressions, checking for the object, and trying to give two rescue breaths until the object is removed and the child starts to breathe on his own, or help arrives.

After the incident, have the child checked by a healthcare provider.
Attend a first aid course with us. Go to or call 1300 85 43 53

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