What do I do if my baby or child chokes? It’s a scary proposition for any parent or mum-to-be, particularly if you’re like most people and aren’t practised in first aid. Babies are especially known for putting objects in their mouths as it’s a key part of their development to orally explore and discover new tastes and textures. As their reflexes are still developing, it can be harder for themselves to get out of trouble if they do choke.
There is no substitute for learning first aid in person, however in the meantime for your own peace of mind, there’s a plethora of information on reputable websites to read and download. Note too, that how you would help a baby to stop choking, differs from how you would save a child or teenager.
How does someone choke?
Choking happens when someone’s airway is either fully or partially blocked. Because babies have very small airways they can choke on small objects like buttons, bouncy balls, pebbles, coins, small magnets, marbles and the like. Basically, anything they can put in their mouths is a choking hazard. There are foods to be more mindful of though, and these include grapes, nuts, raw carrots or other hard vegetables, popcorn and lollies – basically any food that is firm as they don’t yet have all their teeth to chew them properly. There are reports of children as old as five choking from grapes, so it is best to be cautious about choking hazards with young children in general.
- More information about choking risks can be found here:
How can I tell my baby is choking?
Signs and symptoms include:
- Clutching their throat
- Coughing, wheezing, gagging, which may be weak
- Difficulty breathing, speaking or swallowing
- Making a whistling or “crowing” sound when trying to breathe
- Unable to make a sound or cry. (This is why it’s important not to give food when you might not be able to watch them. For example, when driving.)
- Lips, face, earlobes, or fingernails going blue
- Loss of consciousness.
Babies and children should always be supervised, and this includes when eating.
What can I do if a baby is choking?
Here are some instructions on providing first aid for choking infants and children, and some pictures demonstrating each step, from Raising Children. This printable guide from St John Ambulance Australia is also good to print out and have on the fridge.
If baby is choking and under one call triple zero (000) for an ambulance and stay on the phone with the operator while following the first aid steps (see links mentioned above for similar steps). If an older child is choking and still breathing encourage them to cough to help remove the object. If it doesn’t dislodge follow the first aid steps, calling for an ambulance if choking continues. It’s important to stay with the child, remain calm and reassure them.
There are a range of providers training first aid to parents and carers, including online training and courses. Do an internet search to find classes near you or look to these reputable organisations:
- Australian Red Cross
- St John Ambulance Australia
- The Royal Life Saving Society
- Queensland Ambulance Service
Are amber teething necklaces safe for baby?
Doctors are commonly asked if amber teething necklaces are safe for their baby. Though many of these necklaces have knots to keep beads in place, there’s still a risk that a bead could break off and your baby could inhale it. The cord itself is also a strangulation hazard so these necklaces are best avoided.
For further reading about what to do if your baby or child chokes, or to learn more about organisations and links mentioned in this article, visit:
- Raising Children
- Queensland Health
- St John Ambulance Australia
- St John Ambulance Australia printable guide
- The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne