What to do if your baby starts choking?

21st September 2020

Babies put everything in their mouths, so it is very common for them to choke on small objects, or even while eating, as they don't know how to swallow properly at first. If your child starts choking, it is very important to know what to do and to do it quickly.

From the time that children are able to pick things up with their hands, they start putting them in their mouths. Therefore, you need to be very careful and don't let within reach anything small enough to be swallowed.

Likewise, it is normal from the age of six to seven months to start giving children small pieces of food so they can learn how to swallow. However, if the piece is the wrong size or if it is not soft, children can choke on it, as they don't develop the ability to swallow larger, more textured pieces of food until later.

When children are choking they cough weakly and it can even affect their ability to breathe.

If you notice your child choking you need to act quickly:

  • If the child is less than one year old, think about making an emergency call. While you are waiting, place the child face down on your forearm with his head lower than the rest of his body. Give him five slaps on the back between the shoulder blades with the edge of your hand. Then turn your child over and, placing him on his back on your other forearm, press the centre of his chest five times with the tips of your fingers. If the object that your child has swallowed appears in his mouth, remove it. Never pull it out if you can't see it.
  • If your child is more than one year old, try to make him cough. If this doesn't work, lean him forwards and slap him five times between the shoulder blades with the edge of your hand.
  • Remember that the Heimlich manoeuvre is not recommended on small children unless performed by a healthcare professional. In young children, there is a risk of broken ribs and tissue damage, which you should avoid.
  • Never give children anything to drink if they are choking. You need to wait for the object to come out.
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