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How to manage chocking in babies

Choking is one of the scariest yet so common injury in babies. It’s so bad that it can even lead to death of young one. Babies are very prone to chocking mainly because their airways are small and they have not also mastered the art of chewing. They just swallow everything that get into their mouth. They are always at high risk as soon as they get to that picky-picky stage. This is the stage they start discovering a toy lying on the floor, coins, food on the plate, your hands and even their hands! I don’t know who told them the first destination should be their mouth! I have lost counts of the number of times I have to forcefully get something solid out of my baby’s mouth.

So what is chocking?

Choking is the inability to breathe because the trachea/wind pipe is blocked, constricted, or swollen shut. This means that as soon as something a solid is stuck on the wind pipe, you are not able to breath hence could lead to death. Chocking is among the leading cause of deaths of under 4 year children. At least 1 child dies in every 5 days!  Most chocking are caused by foods, candy and coins. So, its good for al moms to be warned.


In chocking, Time VERY important! Time is the only factor between life and death. Let me break it down for you.

  • 0-4 minutes- Brain damage is unlikely
  • 4-6 minutes- Brain damage possible
  • 6-10 minutes- Brain damage likely
  • 10+ minutes- probable brain death

I hope that scares you enough to know the urgency that should come with chocking. Maybe you are wondering, why the brain? The barin controls almost everything in your body. As soon as your windpipe is blocked, there is no oxygen passing through to the lungs and hence the oxygen supply decreases with time. By the time 10 minutes elapses, almost all the oxygen will have been used up and hence the brain slowly dies. This means the baby becomes unconscious!

What are the signs of chocking?

Here are the symptoms so that you can informed for action.

  • Coughing or gagging
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Sudden inability to talk or cry
  • Open the mouth while making funny sounds or no sound at all
  • Hand signals and panic
  • Wheezing
  • Passing out
  • Turning blue: You may notice this on the face, lips, finger nail indicating that oxygen is low I supply.

How do you manage chocking?

  1. Assess the situation quickly– If the baby has suddenly stopped crying or talking, it means that something has blocked the wind pipe. If the baby is coughing, it means that the airways are partially blocked. Encourage coughing as it will dislodge the solid out of the trachea.
  2. Back blows- The next step is try to dislodge the object– If two minutes have elapsed and the object is not coming out despite the coughing, you need to change tactics. The first thing you should do is to give the baby back blows. You need to sit, then place the baby on your arm facing the ground. Support the neck with your hand (between the thumb and the fingers-face down) and maintain the support. Lower you thigh such that the baby’s head is lower than the chest. Using the palm of your other hand, give five, firm and distinct blows on the space between the baby’s shoulders. The object may come out.
  3. Chest thrust- If the object does not come out, it’s time to do chest thrust. Carefully turn the baby over and use the thumb and fingers to hold the baby’s jaw with head lower than the chest. Using two fingers placed at the center of the baby’s breastbone (imaginary line running through between the nipples), give five quick chest compressions. Be firm but gentle when doing the chest thrust.
  4. Repeat the process- If the object does not come out, repeat back blows and then alternate with chest thrust until the baby start coughing or the object dislodged.
  5. Open the baby’s mouth and try see if you can see the object. Remove it with your finger if you can. If you cannot see it, then don’t put your finger as you could push it further.
  6. Perform CPRIf the baby is unresponsive i.e the object is out but not breathing, try to do CPR. I will explain about this CPR in the next post. Like and follow me on Facebook not to miss this life saving first aid skill.

I know the statistics I mentioned earlier scared you. Especially when you know that most of the time your baby is with the nanny or in a daycare. It’s important you train your nanny this first aid skill. Please do not assume! It means life and death! I have made it a habit to train even a relative watching over the baby for just two hours. I hope you do this too.

How can you prevent chocking?

  1. Introduce solid foods at the recommended time- Please do not introduce anything solid before your baby is at least 4 months of age. In fact, wait till six months. Your baby has still not mastered the art of swallowing the food or even chewing to reduce the sizes
  2. Avoid high-risk food –Avoid hard foods. When you introduce solid foods, go for mushed food and purees and adjust as the baby grows. If you are opting for baby-led weaning, ensure that the food pieces are small and soft. Avoid seed like foods like nuts, popcorn, hard candy etc.
  3. Supervise meal time- This is my rule number 1 in when it comes to weaning. A baby must never eat alone. You can say that again. Please supervise your baby to ensure that you are there to observe in case of chocking. For alder babies, remind them to chew, to swallow and to avoid playing and talking too much while eating as this can cause chocking.
  4. Keep hazardous object out of reach– This means you ensure that the only thing that your baby can reach is bigger that his mouth can swallow. Carefully select the toys that they are playing with. Small toys like marbles, tiny building blocks are meant for older children. Avoid dropping any coin on the floor, pen caps or any object that a baby could attract the baby’s attention. This include telling your nanny these rules for the safety of your baby.

See also:

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