Would You Know What To Do If Your Child Was Choking?

The most common cause of nonfatal choking in young children is food. At least one child dies from choking on food every five days in the U.S., and more than 12,000 children are taken to a hospital emergency room each year for food-choking injuries.

When Coop was a little over a year old, we had a scare. We were sitting down for supper, listening to music and having a typical night of family time at the table. Lil man was singing and dancing in his high-chair then went quiet. Heath immediately recognized he was choking. I did the finger sweep to see if there was something close that I could remove but this was lodged deeper in his throat. His gag reflex was working but could not remove the object alone. Thank God I have medical training and immediately took action. I picked him up and turned him at an angle on my arm, upside down and began thrusts on his back in between his shoulder blades and a piece of chicken popped right out. While it was a very scary situation, mommy instincts kicked in and we were able to get his passage way cleared quickly. Hearing him cry was the greatest sound ever and it took me a while to stop cuddling him after. He did not need further medical attention but if you are uncertain always opt on the safe side and take your child to the emergency room or urgent care.

I share this with you because it is astonishing how things can go from great to an emergency situation faster than you can blink an eye. To have the knowledge to know how to handle situations is so incredibly important not just in a choking instance but in any form of injury that our little one’s occur. I realize that there are some injuries and situations that may be out of our control but to know what to do while waiting for emergency response or getting them to the emergency room is priceless.

I highly recommend a CPR and First Aid response class to all new parents and caregivers. Even if you are certified and it has been a while a refresher courses is always a good idea. If you don’t have time for a class I have included videos. Take the time to watch them! You never know when the skill learned will come in handy. Want to take a class and don’t know where to start? Take a look at the American Red Cross site for locations near you.


How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver on Your Child (How to video link here)

When to do it: Your child is choking on an object and can’t breathe (or can only make infrequent high-pitched gasps).

How to do it for infants under 1:

  1. Place her face down on your forearm, supporting her neck and chin with your fingers. Tilt your hand so her head is lower than her chest.
  2. Give five quick blows to her back between her shoulder blades, using the heel of your free hand.
  3. If no object pops out, turn your baby over and place her faceup on a table or the floor.
  4. Place two fingers in the middle of her breastbone just below nipple level and give five quick thrusts.
  5. Repeat the cycle of five back blows and five chest thrusts until the object is dislodged or she begins breathing.
  6. If your baby becomes unconscious, begin CPR immediately. Each time you go to deliver rescue breaths, look for an object in her mouth. If you see something, take it out. But never put your fingers into her throat to feel for an object; you could lodge it more firmly.

How to do it for kids older than 1:

  1. Stand or kneel behind your kid, wrapping your arms around him.
  2. Make a fist and place it just above his belly button.
  3. Grasp your fist with your other hand and give quick upward thrusts.
  4. Deliver thrusts until the object is dislodged or he begins breathing.
  5. If your child passes out, begin CPR immediately. Each time you go to deliver rescue breaths, look for an object in his mouth. If you see something, take it out. But never attempt to put your fingers into your child’s throat to feel for the object; doing so could lodge the item more firmly in his airway.

Although you hope you’ll never use cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for a child or infant, it’s important to know the steps so that you can help in the event of a cardiac or breathing emergency. And although you may have taken a class in child CPR, it’s a good idea to keep the steps handy so that the information stays fresh in your memory. With our printable (follow hyperlink in tile) step-by-step guide, you can access the child and baby CPR steps anytime, anywhere. Simply print them up and place them in your car, your desk, your kitchen or with your other first aid supplies, then read over them from time to time to help maintain your skills.

Before Giving Child or Baby CPR

1. Check the scene and the child. Make sure the scene is safe, then tap the child on the shoulder and shout “Are you OK?” to ensure that he or she needs help.

For infants, flick the bottom of the foot to elicit a response.

2. Call 911. If child does not respond, ask a bystander to call 911, then administer approximately 2 minutes of care.

– If you’re alone with the child or infant, administer 2 minutes of care, then call 911.

– If the child or infant does respond, call 911 to report any life-threatening conditions and obtain consent to give care. Check the child from head to toe and ask questions to find out what happened.

3. Open the airway. With the child lying on his or her back, tilt the head back slightly and lift the chin.


4. Check for breathing. Listen carefully, for no more than 10 seconds, for sounds of breathing. (Occasional gasps aren’t breathing.)

Infants typically have periodic breathing, so changes in breathing pattern are normal.

5. Deliver 2 rescue breaths if the child or infant isn’t breathing. With the head tilted back slightly and the chin lifted, pinch the child’s nose shut, make a complete seal by placing your mouth over the child’s mouth and breathe into the child’s mouth twice.

For infants, use your mouth to make a complete seal over the infant’s mouth and nose, then blow in for one second to make the chest clearly rise. Now, deliver two rescue breaths.

6. Begin CPR. If the child or baby is unresponsive to the rescue breaths, begin CPR.

Performing Child & Baby CPR

1. Kneel beside the child or baby.


2. Push hard, push fast.

-For children, place the heel of one hand on the center of the chest, then place the heel of the other hand on top of the first hand, and lace your fingers together. Deliver 30 quick compressions that are each about 2 inches deep.

-For infants, use 2 fingers to deliver 30 quick compressions that are each about 1.5 inches deep.

3. Give 2 rescue breaths (see instructions above).


4. Keep going. Continue the these baby or child CPR steps until you see obvious signs of life, like breathing, or until an AED is ready to use, another trained responder or EMS professional is available to take over, you’re too exhausted to continue, or the scene becomes unsafe.


To see the child and baby CPR steps performed, watch our child and infant CPR videos. For online, in person, and blended training courses on child, infant and adult CPR, visit our CPR Training Page.

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