9 Steps to Save a Choking Baby
A choking baby is any parent or caregiver’s worst nightmare. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under age four are at the greatest risk of choking, and choking is actually the leading cause of death in this age group. In the United States, a child dies every five days from choking on food. In Canada, choking is responsible for almost 40% of unintentional injuries in infants each year.
While no one ever wants to be in the position of caring for a choking infant, familiarizing yourself with first aid for choking is vitally important because it may help save your child’s life one day.
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Babies have smaller airways that are easily blocked and a tendency to explore their environment by placing objects in their mouths, both of which lead to an increased risk of choking in this age group. Additionally, many infants haven’t yet mastered the task of chewing, which increases their risk of choking on food.
What is choking?
Choking can happen when a small object, such as a piece of food that hasn’t been completely chewed or a small toy, becomes stuck in baby’s small airway. This blocks oxygen from reaching baby’s lungs and body. Without oxygen, brain damage and even death may occur—so choking is definitely serious business.
How to save a choking baby
While encountering a choking emergency is certainly scary, first aid for a choking infant is fortunately simple and easy to learn. There are nine steps to saving a choking baby. The steps explained on the following pages are used for babies younger than twelve months of age.
Step 1: Assess the situation and call 911
Does the baby appear to be gagging, but still able to breathe or cough strongly? If so, allow the child to cough on their own. A strong cough is actually better at clearing an object in the airway than any actions that you can take, but you should still call 911 and have the infant transported to the nearest emergency room for treatment.
Check to see if baby is conscious—try shouting and tapping their foot to see if they are responsive. If baby is conscious, but is choking and it doesn’t seem like he can cough or breathe (occasional gasping is NOT breathing), call 911 and take the following steps.