5 crucial things all parents should know about kids and choking

Kinderling News & Features

First aid for kids is an important part of parenting, so it's always a good idea to keep helpful treatments and strategies up your sleeve.

The brilliant Sarah Hunstead hosts Babyology’s podcast, Ain’t That The Truth. She’s a paediatric emergency nurse, author and children’s health advocate. In a recent Facebook Live on Babyology’s Facebook page, Sarah tackled safety and first aid, and fielded lots of questions about how to cope with accidents, and particularly how to prevent and treat choking in children.

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Key facts to know about choking

Babyology readers were particularly concerned about their littlies and choking incidents, and Sarah had lots of practical advice about dealing with this scary situation.

1. What’s the first thing a parent should do if they think their child is choking?

Well, the first thing you need to do is actually stay calm because if you are absolutely flipping out, then your child is too, of course. So stay calm and note whether or not they have a strong effective cough. If they can cough, and cough really well then encourage them to keep coughing. If they can’t, then that’s when you need to go into back blows and chest thrusts.

Sarah noted that it can be hard to tell if your child is in trouble.

“When they are choking, they will look frightened,” she explained. “They may be drooling more than usual. They may be silent or they may have an ineffective cough. And that’s when we need to intervene.”

2. Is it safe to use the Heimlich manoeuvre on choking kids?

“It’s actually really dangerous for kids,” Sarah warned. “We don’t encourage you to do the Heimlich because kids have got really soft, internal organs.”

3. Which foods most commonly cause choking in kids?

“Grapes!” Sarah said emphatically. “Please, please, please always chop up the grapes into quarters or squish them because anything that is that beautiful spherical shape, especially with something like that skin that a grape has is the perfect size to lodge in a child’s airway.”

“Those very large blueberries, cherry tomatoes, sausages that have been cut into circles,” she added. “So give your kids sausages but cut them into batons and basically anything that can fit through an old-school film canister? A child can choke on that.”

4. What are the most common choking hazards, besides food?

“Coins, pen lids, erasers, Lego,” Sarah reeled off. “All of those sorts of things, but the one thing that is particularly dangerous that we have in our homes are button batteries, so those round lithium batteries. Not only can the child choke on them but if that gets stuck, that can actually burn through their oesophagus or their tummy within a couple of hours and they are life-threatening. So those in particular – keep them out of reach.”

5. Do we need a trip to the hospital if my child has choked?

“That’s a really good question,” Sarah said. “If you have needed to end up doing a fair amount of back blows, they’ve had a colour change … if they’ve vomited and you’re concerned that they may have inhaled some of that vomit or if they’re not recovering as well as you think that they should.”

“If your gut says that they are not right – trust it. Seek medical help. And remember if you try back blows to your child and [the object is] not clearing. You need to call an ambulance – on triple zero – and have them on the way to help.”

First-aid questions answered

Our Facebook Live covered lots of other curly first-aid related questions including:

  • How can I find CPR courses?
  • I’ve done CPR course. How often should I do a refresher course?
  • My child is asthmatic and I worry about attacks. What can I do to prepare?
  • What are some signs of concussion?
  • How bad does a cut need to be to get stitches?
  • How do you treat a cut that won’t stop bleeding?
  • What is the best way to treat shock?
  • Trampolines and young kids. Yes or no?
  • What should you do to treat a bump on the head? 

Watch the video on the Babyology Facebook page to find out the answer to these questions – and many more!

For more research-backed real talk about kids’ health issues, subscribe to Ain’t That The Truth, a Babyology podcast. Listen in through your usual podcast app, or online

This post originally appeared on Babyology.