Definition of choking:
Choking is when an object/piece of food is lodged in the windpipe (breathing tube) causing a blockage and cutting off oxygen to the lungs.
How do we prevent choking?
- Supervise children especially toddlers during mealtimes.
- Prepare foods that are age appropriate.
- Toddlers are recommended to have round shaped foods cut lengthwise. (e.g. cherry tomatoes, grapes)
- Solid foods should be chopped into smaller pieces. (e.g. raw carrots, chunks of meat). Recommended till the child is about 4 years old.
- Remove seeds/pits from fruits (e.g. rambutan, cherries, apricots)
- Teach them by example how to chew food well.
- Insist that children eat at the table or at least sitting up. They should never run, walk or play with food in the mouth.
- Keep toys/items with small parts away from infants and young children. Follow the age recommendation on toy packages.
Tip: Do not buy small toys/toys with small detachable parts for children under 3 years of age.
If a toy or part of a toy can pass through a toilet paper tube, do not buy the toy for a child below 3 or who likes to put things into his/her mouth.
Examples of items that can cause choking
- Round/oval shaped foods such as nuts, candies, gummy candies.
- Taffy like, soft chewy candy.
- Popcorn, chunks of peanut butter or other nut butters.
- Sausage and its casings.
- Latex balloons, coins of any size, tokens or marbles.
- Small toy parts, pen/marker caps, buttons.
- Batteries (especially button shaped)
- Small compressible toys/slime that can fit entirely into the child’s mouth.
What to do if my child is choking?
- Baby is still breathing.
- Monitor and do nothing. Allow coughing.
- Baby is not breathing but still conscious.
Important steps to remember:
Use your little finger to swipe the object from the baby’s mouth only if you can see it clearly, If not it might be pushed in further and cause the blockage to get worse
When carrying out rescue as per steps below, ensure their head is lower than their body.
- Lie the baby on your forearm so that the baby’s head is lower than their chest. Support their head with one hand and place 2 fingers of the other hand on either side of their mouth without pressing on their throat.
- Give the baby 5 blows to the back, between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
- Place your forearm against the baby’s back holding their head in your hand, then turn them over.
- Place 2 fingers in the middle of the breast bone and compress the chest by 1/3 depth of the chest.
Repeat chest compressions 5 times.
- Alternate with 5 back blows and 5 chest thrusts till the baby starts to breathe more
!!*Incorrectly done CPR can do more harm than good (e.g. rib cage fractures and injury to the lungs). You are encouraged to enrol in a Formal Basic Life Support Course to learn the correct skills!!
- Lie the baby on a flat surface.
- Call the emergency services straight away. (You can keep the dispatcher on the loud speaker during this step while carrying out rescue efforts)
- Start Cardio-pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) if you know how*. (Alternate 30 chest compressions with 2 rescue breaths)
- If you do not know how to perform CPR, use chest compressions only, at a rate of 2 compressions per second.
- Continue rescue efforts till baby resumes breathing or help arrives.
- If baby resumes breathing, continue to monitor and turn the baby to the side to aid in breathing.