Choking In Toddlers: Precautions And Heimlich Maneuver

Written by Aditi Majumder • 
Image: Shutterstock

Teaching toddlers to eat can take a good while. As this is new to them, they could be messy or moody about it. Swallowing food directly or taking big bites would be run-of-the-mill. Soon, toy cars to batteries, and more, would also be on the menu. This is how they risk choking themselves. Do not panic and try to assess the situation. You could get around improving your toddler’s eating habits by following a little something from MomJunction.

What Is Choking?

Choking is caused when a small object or food accidentally lodges itself in the throat or the windpipe. The trachea and the esophagus are separated by a small cartilage called epiglottis, which prevents food from entering the windpipe. However, many a time, the cartilage does not close fast enough, allowing the object to slip into the trachea. This creates a blockage and problems in breathing. The airway could block the oxygen from reaching the lungs and cause heavy gasping for breath.

[ Read: Croup In Toddlers ]

How Can You Tell If Your Child Is Choking?

If you see your child panicking, grabbing his throat, waving his arms or wheezing, act immediately as these are the first signs of choking.

Causes Of Choking In Toddlers:

The following are a few reasons your child could choke:

  • Not chewing food well or swallowing it
  • Eating too fast
  • Swallowing small objects like toys or solid food
  • Inhaling air or breathing rapidly during vomiting

Symptoms Of Choking:

See if your child shows any of the following signs:

  • Coughing forcibly and difficulty in breathing
  • Problem in speaking or complete inability to speak.
  • Heavy breath or panting for breath.
  • Lips turning bluish or pale
  • Gradual loss of consciousness
  • High pitched sounds while inhaling

First Aid For Choking:

The very first way to dislodge the stuck item from windpipe is by coughing it out. Ask your child to cough hard and forcefully so that the object comes out automatically. If it doesn’t work, then you may try the following (remember not to perform these if he is unconscious from choking).

1. Back blows:

Sit your child on a chair or a bed and bend him forward a little. Use the heel of your hand to give a quick blow between the shoulder blades. Do it for a maximum of five times.

2. Chest Thrusts:

Place one hand at the center of your child’s back and the other on his chest. Give a precise and sharp thrust on his back using the heel of your hand. Try this five times.

[ Read: Eating Disorders In Toddlers ]

When To Call A Doctor:

If your child faints, stop everything and call a doctor. Lower him or her on the floor and start doing CPR and do not stop until help arrives.

If the object has successfully been dislodged, keep a check on your child. If you witness repetitive coughs, fever or shortness of breath, make sure to call a doctor.

What Is Heimlich Maneuver? (Choking Rescue Procedure):

Heimlich Maneuver is an emergency procedure done to rescue a person from choking. When an obstruction is caused in the windpipe, this method is undertaken by applying repetitive forceful pressure on the abdomen (at a strategic location between the rib cage and the navel), so that the thrust is upwards.

When To Do It?

You should opt for Heimlich Maneuver as a process to relieve your child from remaining choked for a long time. However, it should be carried out only if he is conscious.

How To Do It?

Here’s how you can do Heimlich Maneuver for toddlers:

  • Stand or kneel behind your kid and position yourself in a way that you can wrap your arms around him.
  • Fist your hand and place it just above his bellybutton and secure this position using the other hand.
  • Give sharp and quick upward thrusts.
  • Keep doing this at regular intervals until the object pops out from the esophagus or windpipe and he starts breathing again.

[ Read: Home Safety For Babies ]

Are There Any Risks To The Heimlich Maneuver?

There is no risk as long as it is carried out while the child is conscious. However, if the technique is not implemented in the right way, it can lead to complications. It is better to call a doctor.

Tips To Lower Toddler’s Choking Risks:

  • Keep small objects like toys and batteries out of their reach.
  • Cut all food items into smaller pieces.
  • Stay next to your child when he or she is eating.
  • The child may panic if he chokes. This makes it more important for you to stay calm and take appropriate actions.

We hope that we’ve helped you run through all the necessary information about choking and Heimlich Maneuver. Do share more tips that you may know.

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