Choking Infants and Children
Choking hazards for children include food, toys, and household items. Signs of a choking child include:
- Difficulty breathing
- A weak cry or coughing
- Bluish skin color
- Loss of consciousness
- Inability to make a sound
- High-pitched sounds while inhaling
To prevent choking in children, follow the following guidelines:
- Keep small objects out of reach
- Cut food into small pieces
- Don't let children have hard candy
- Supervise young children while they eat and play
Choking in Older Adults
In older adults, dentures and difficulty with swallowing can increase the risk of choking. Older adults who live alone may not have the help they need if they choke. Choking adults typically experience coughing, gagging, or wheezing, and they may pass out or turn blue.
What Should You Do?
- Call 911 immediately.
- If the victim is coughing forcefully, encourage continued coughing to clear the object.
- A person who can't cough, speak, or breathe needs immediate help; ask if they are choking and let them know you will use abdominal thrusts (the Heimlich maneuver).
- If the victim is or becomes unresponsive, lower the person to the ground, expose the chest, and start CPR with 30 chest compressions. Look inside the mouth each time you give breaths and remove any object you see.
- For a responsive pregnant victim, or any victim you cannot get your arms around or for whom abdominal thrusts are not effective, give chest thrusts from behind; avoid squeezing the ribs with your arms.
- Even after choking stops, it’s important to seek medical attention.
What is the Heimlich Maneuver?
If a choking victim is responsive but unable to cough, speak, or breathe, you will need to perform the Heimlich Maneuver as an emergency procedure to prevent suffocation. The procedure is not recommended for children younger than 1, but it is generally considered safe for children older than 1 (according to the National Library of Medicine). The steps are below:
- Stand behind the victim with one leg forward between the victim's legs.
- For a child, move down to the child's level and keep your head slightly to one side.
- Reach around the abdomen and locate the person's navel using a finger from one hand.
- Make a fist with the other hand and place the thumb side of the fist against the person's abdomen, just above the navel.
- Grasp your fist with your other hand and thrust inward and upward into the victim's abdomen with quick jerks.
- Continue abdominal thrusts until the victim expels the object or becomes unresponsive.
- If the victim becomes unresponsive, begin CPR.