WHAT TO DO FOR AN INFANT WHO IS CHOKING
An infant who is choking is a situation no parent wants to be in, but if you are, then knowing what to do is crucial. It is important to be prepared by taking a first aid and CPR training course, and to download the Red Cross First Aid App for quick and easy reference.
Picture this: you’re at a restaurant and baby is sitting in a highchair as the family is eating a delicious meal. Then, your normally fussy and noisy baby falls silent. At first you think nothing of it, but then a few seconds later your baby has a wide-eyed expression and begins to turn purple in the face. These are signs of choking.
For the purposes of first aid and CPR, according to the Canadian Red Cross, a baby is defined as someone from newborn to one year old. Children are from age one to eight. Adults are classified as over eight years old.
PARTIAL CHOKING AND FULL CHOKING IN INFANTS
The way that infants choke is much like any adult. Choking is classified as an instance where the airway is blocked, preventing the passage of air into the lungs. Partial choking is where the airway is not fully blocked off, but an obstruction is still there. Generally, they can still breathe and make sounds such as coughing and audible gasping. Try and encourage the child to cough it out naturally. Partial choking can become full choking if the blockage slips further into the airway, can the infant can’t breathe or stops making noises or becomes too weak to cough up the hazard.
Signs of full choking include a stunned or horrified wide-eyed expression, and faint wheezing or an inability to make any type of noise even if their mouth is open. The colour of their skin may turn blue or purple due to lack of oxygen in their lungs. Immediate action is needed. The steps for full choking on a conscious baby are outlined below, but these steps do NOT replace the need to take a CPR course. There is no better preparation than hands-on training provided in a certification course.
INFANT BACK BLOWS AND CHEST THRUSTS
This technique is for infants who are responsive, but not breathing normally or at all.
- First, take no more than five seconds to assess if the infant is breathing by leaning in by their mouth and nose.
- If there’s no sound or noise indicating breaths, secure the infant by placing your forearm under the torso of the baby with your hand gently yet securely braced around the infant’s jaw. This ensures that their neck is protected.
- Make sure that the infant’s mouth is open and facing the ground, or from an alternate angle their back is facing the sky as you rest their stomach on your forearm. Remember, babies are heavier than they look. To ensure the infant’s safety, sit down on a chair or bench if possible and rest your forearm on one of your knees.
- Deliver five firm back blows to the middle of their upper back.
- Afterwards, turn the infant face-up with its head supported by your hand.
- Take two fingers and place them on the infant’s chest, just beneath their nipple line.
- Deliver five firm chest compressions, about 1/3 the depth of the child’s chest.
- Should the blockage restricting the infant’s airway come loose or get coughed up, make sure that the infant’s mouth is open so that they do not accidentally swallow it again.
- Should the infant still be choking after five firm back blows and five chest thrusts, repeat the procedure from step two. If the child is still choking after another cycle and becomes unresponsive, call 9-1-1 right away and resort to performing CPR
CHOKING HAZARDS FOR INFANTS
It is best to prevent choking from happening in the first place! Infants and young children are very adventurous and, therefore, must be properly supervised by a responsible adult or caregiver, particularly at feeding time or once infants start to become mobile. All small object objects are a choking hazard and should be always kept out of young children’s reach.
Choking hazards for infants are often smaller objects older people may take for granted. For example, small, solid foods such as cheerios, granola, apple slices, carrots, and such can pose choking hazards to infant children. Non-food choking hazards can include toys such as Lego with pieces, action figures, and such like. Eating while in motion is a common cause of choking for infants and children.
The following is a list of some common choking hazards. This list is by no means all inclusive.
- Nuts and Seeds (potential allergy hazard too)
- Hot Dogs and Sausages
- Pieces of meat and cheese
- Pieces of fruits (apple bites or slices, pear chunks, pineapple chunks)
- Small whole fruits (blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, whole grapes)
- Hard and raw vegetables (carrots, celery, broccoli)
- Peanut butter (particularly thick/crunchy, also potential allergy hazard)
- Hard, gooey, sticky candies (jawbreakers, bubble-gum, toffee, mints)
- Foods that break into small pieces (teething cookies, cookies in general)
- Household Objects and Toys:
- Plastic bags
- Broken/uninflated balloons (common at parties, do watch out for them)
- Toys meant for older children that tend to have smaller parts (flagged for this guide, if you have multiple kids in different age groups this is an even more important hazard)
- Small rocks, beads, and stones (again, flagged because babies like putting unassuming objects in their mouths it’s the way they discover the world)
- Small button-style batteries (like in wristwatches and small remote controls)
- Pen and marker caps
- Pills and vitamins
- Improperly contained garbage and recycling
Any additional tips?
Download the Red Cross first aid app to find helpful first aid tips including what to do for infant CPR. Take a Red Cross first aid certification course with an approved training provider and learn what to do for all types of emergencies. Be prepared![apss_share]