Choking occurs when an object becomes stuck in the throat or the windpipe and blocks air from flowing into the lungs.
Children, particularly those under five, often put objects in their mouth. This is a normal part of how they explore the world. However, some small objects or food items can be just the right size to get stuck in a child's airway and cause choking.
How to prevent a child from choking
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Examples of things that can cause choking include:
- cherry tomatoes
- whole nuts
- sweets (such as marshmallows and hard boiled sweets)
- button batteries
- nappy sacks
- small toys
How to avoid choking
No matter how careful you are, your child may choke on something. By following these steps you can help reduce the risk.
- make sure food is cut into small pieces and stones and pips are removed from fruits
- keep small items out of the reach of children
- make sure your child plays only with toys appropriate for their age and stage of development to reduce the risk of choking
- be aware that older children may share unsuitable objects with younger brothers and sisters
- throw away broken toys
- never place hair bands, clips or hair ties on your baby
- do not put jewellery of any kind on a child under three years of age
What to do if your child is choking
Coughing is a natural response when something obstructs the airway. If your child is coughing after swallowing an item, encourage them to carry on coughing to bring up what they're choking on. Do not leave your child alone.
If your child's coughing isn't effective, it's silent, they can't breathe in properly or speak, or are unconscious call for help immediately on 999.
If a choking child is or becomes unconscious put them on a firm, flat surface and shout for help. Call 999 and put your phone on speakerphone so your hands are free. Do not leave the child. Open the child’s mouth and if you can see the object, remove it. Do not put fingers into the mouth to feel for the object. Start CPR until help arrives.
Remember the best way to avoid choking is by following the steps on reducing your risk.