Infant & Child CPR and Choking
When can choking happen?
At as young as 3 months old, babies start trying to put things in their mouths. As parents, it is important to consider what is within their reach to help keep them safe. By the time a baby starts to crawl, most homes have been “baby-proofed,” but things are set to change again once your little one starts eating solid food (at around 6 months). For the first time, you are offering your
baby things to put into their mouth!
Common items babies choke on include:
- whole grapes and cherry tomatoes
- small toys (that are for older children)
- foods that become sticky (like toast)
What do babies do to protect themselves?
Babies have instinctual protection for their airways that keep them from choking. Their gag reflex is actually located on the tongue near where their molars will be. Also, until the age of approximately 6 months, they have something called a “tongue-thrust reflex” that will help them to push objects back out of the mouth to avoid choking. It can be deceiving for parents who see their children showing an interest in food around 4 months, but it is research shows it is best to wait until a least 6 months old before introducing anything other than breast milk or formula.
Common Mistakes You Can Correct
When someone has food caught in their throat, a common thing people think to do is have a drink to help it go down. But think about this: putting something else on top of whatever is in the throat, could potentially dislodge it and cut off the airway! For adults and kids alike, the safest thing to do to avoid choking is to keep coughing or gagging until it is freed. Coughing is the body’s way of clearing the airway safely.
What can you do to help?
If you see a child choking and they are small enough to pick up and place across your arm (under 1 year old), here’s what to do: do not do a blind finger sweep in their mouth! If you see an object try to get it without pushing it farther down. Next, place them face down and deliver 5 back blows between their shoulder and in the direction of their head. You then flip them over, face-up, and draw a line between their nipples; this is where you press down firmly giving 5 chest compressions.
You need to repeat this cycle until the item comes out or the baby becomes unresponsive. Keep the child tipped toward the ground so gravity can help you! If an older child that is too big to pick up is choking, get down to their level and do the Heimlich maneuver. You do this by folding your hand over your other fist and pulling in and up just under the ribs of the person you are helping.
If the infant or child becomes unresponsive, immediately call 911. If you are not trained in Infant and Child CPR, the 911 operator will help guide you.