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Prevent Choking in Babies

As a parent, you are worried about everything that gets into your baby's mouth. You want to make sure they eat a healthy diet that includes a wide range of nutrients, textures and flavors. But you also need to be careful about what should not go into your baby's mouth.

Children love to explore by touching things and putting them in their mouths. Not surprisingly, choking is a common cause of injury and even death for infants and young children. Knowing what can be a hazard and removing a blocked object from your child's airways will help keep them safe.

What are the reasons babies choke?

If your child tries to swallow something too big on the throat, the object may get stuck. When something gets clogged in your child's airways (trachea), it suffocates. Blocked airways mean that oxygen cannot get into a child's lungs or brain.

In many cases, a sick child can still breathe. If your baby coughs or cries, the air passes through the airways despite the transient thing.

What objects are choking hazards for babies?

Anything less than 1 inch in diameter or 1 inch in length can get stuck in a child's airways and cause suffocation. Food, toys, stones, coins and other items found by a child lying around the house can pose a risk of suffocation.

It is also important to tell older children which foods or things can be dangerous for your baby. Extinction injuries often occur when an older child gives a child a dangerous object.

Some of the most common choking hazards for babies include

Food (such as grapes, raisins, hot dogs, hard candy and raw carrots)

  • Small toy parts
  • Beads
  • Coins
  • Rocks
  • Pen caps
  • Button batteries

How to avoid babies from choking

Found objects and food are the greatest danger of suffocation for children. Keep small objects out of the reach of children. And talk to your child's pediatrician about when it is safe to introduce solid foods.

When serving solid food to your child, cut it into small pieces. In general, the pieces should be no more than a finger. Foods that require chewing (such as meat or cheese) should be smaller than soft foods (such as avocado or cantaloupe).

Other ways to avoid your baby’s risk of choking include:

  • Placing your child in a highchair during meals whenever possible
  • Keeping your child upright if they not in a highchair while eating
  • Not giving your child food to eat while they’re in a stroller or car seat

What to do if your baby is choking

If your baby is choking, but is able to breathe, cough and cry:

  • Try to calm your child down. In many cases, the child can clear the blockage on their own.
  • Let your baby cough. Coughing naturally helps clear whatever is blocking their airway.
  • Check your child’s mouth, but don’t reach in and try to remove the object unless you can see and grasp it easily. You could accidentally push it farther down their airway.
  • If your baby stops making noise or breathing, follow the next steps and call 911.

If your baby is awake (conscious) but can’t breathe or make noise, try to dislodge the stuck object:

  • Hold your baby face down on your forearm or lap, with their head lower than their body.
  • Use the heel of your hand to slap them on the back five times. Start at the low back and thrust upward toward the shoulders.
  • If the back blows don’t dislodge the object, flip your baby over and lie them on the floor.
  • Find the spot centered between the nipples and move one finger’s width lower. Use your thumbs or two fingers next to each other to deliver five quick chest thrusts.
  • Repeat the sequence of back blows and chest thrusts until the object dislodges or your baby becomes unconscious.
  • If your baby becomes unconscious, call 911 and start CPR immediately. Do not leave them alone.

Place your baby on a hard, flat surface such as the floor.

Find the imaginary line between your baby's nipples. Go down with one finger below this line and press your chest 30 times with two fingers. Push them about an inch into the body and allow the chest to return to its normal position after each impact.

Tilt the baby's head back slightly to open the airways. Seal her mouth and nose tightly. Take two slow breaths (after 1 second). Try to breathe in enough air to see your baby's chest rise slightly. If you can't see his chest rise, move the baby's head and take two more breaths.

Continue a series of 30 chest compressions and two breaths until the child begins to breathe or until medical help arrives.

If the obstruction is removed during CPR, check that the baby is breathing and that there are no signs of blood circulation, such as the return of normal skin color.

When your baby is breathing normally, you can stop CPR. The situation is no longer an emergency, but you should follow a pediatrician. Your doctor may want to check that the accident did not cause any damage.

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