When Your Child Has an Object in the Airway - Fairview Health Services
 
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When Your Child Has an Object in the Airway

Small children tend to put objects, such as food or toys, into their mouths. The object can then be breathed into the trachea (airway). A blocked airway causes choking and can be serious, even deadly. This sheet can help you prepare for a choking emergency at home. You can also learn steps to help prevent your child from choking.

For a baby

 

For a child

Closeup of person holding baby on one arm, face down. Arrow shows heel of hand striking baby's back. Another image shows baby, face up, head supported. Adult places two or three fingers in the middle of baby's breastbone and thrusts downward 5 times.

 

Toddler boy standing with woman kneeling behind him. Woman's fist is on boy's abdomen with other hand on top of fist. Arrow shows woman pushing in on boy's abdomen with fist.

Step 1: Turn the baby onto his or her stomach. Use the heel of your hand to give five quick, forceful blows on the baby’s upper back, between the shoulder blades.

Step 2: Hold your baby in one hand, supporting the head. Place two or three fingers in the middle of the baby’s breastbone and give 5 thrusts downward.

 

Make a fist and grab it with your other hand. Place your fist right above the bellybutton. Then use fast, short motions to thrust inward and upward.

 

How Does the Airway Become Blocked?

Any object small enough to enter your child's airway can block it. This includes small food pieces, such as nuts, grapes, beans, popcorn, hotdogs, or food that hasn’t been chewed well. Household objects, such as buttons, marbles, coins, latex balloons, and beads are also common choking hazards. Small toy parts can cause your child to choke, too.

Signs of a Blocked Airway

The following are signs of choking:

  • Violent coughing

  • A high-pitched sound when breathing in

  • Inability to cough, breathe, cry, or speak

  • Face that turns pale and bluish

Unblocking the Airway

If your infant is NOT breathing:

  1. If possible, tell someone to call 911. Then begin trying to remove the object.

  2. If you can see the object, try to remove it with your finger. Do this only if you can see the object.

  3. If air isn’t getting in or out of the airway, lay your baby on his or her stomach, across your forearm. Support the head and neck with your hand and have the head lower than the rest of the baby's body, as in the picture.

  4. Use the heel of your other hand to give five quick, forceful blows on your baby’s upper back, between the shoulder blades.

If the object doesn’t come free after 5 blows:

  1. Turn your baby onto his or her back. Again, support your baby’s head with your hand and have the head lower than the rest of the baby's body.

  2. Place two or three fingers in the middle of the baby’s breastbone, just below an imaginary line between the nipples.

  3. Give 5 thrusts downward.

  4. Keep switching back and forth, giving 5 blows to the back and 5 thrusts to the breastbone until the object comes loose.

If the baby passes out:

  • Lay him or her on the floor.

  • Call 911 if they have not already been called.

  • Begin infant CPR.

  • If you see the object, try to remove it with your finger. Do this only if you can see the object.

If your child is 1 year old or older and is NOT breathing:

  1. Get behind the child.

  2. Place one of your arms diagonally across the child’s chest and lean the child forward.

  3. Use the heel of your other hand to give five quick, forceful blows on the child’s back, between the shoulder blades.

If the object doesn’t come free after 5 blows:

  1. Place your arms around the child’s waist.

  2. Make a fist with one hand. Place the thumb-side of your fist directly above the child’s bellybutton.

  3. Grab your fist with your other hand.

  4. Do short, quick thrusts, pulling the hands inward and upward. Do not lift the child off floor while thrusting.

  5. Keep switching back and forth, giving 5 blows to the back and 5 thrusts to the abdomen until the object comes loose.

If the child passes out:

  • Lay him or her on the floor.

  • Call 911.

  • Begin CPR.

  • If you see the object, try to remove it with your finger. Do this only if you can see the object.

If an object is stuck and the child IS breathing, call 911 and stay calm, and try to calm your child. Help your child to breathe slowly and gently. You may be instructed to bring your child to the local emergency department.

To help prevent your child from choking:

  • Keep an eye on children as they eat or play.

  • Keep food or objects that are easily choked on, such as grapes or marbles, away from small children.

  • Do not allow small children to play with toys with small parts.

  • Check for recalls on toys. Visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website:

 

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