First Aid – What To Do If A Child Is Choking

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Babies and children use their senses to explore. They are constantly learning and at very young ages they are unable to understand what is safe, and what is not. No matter how careful we are, children may put something small in their mouth and begin choking. Whether it is a piece of food, a toy or a small household object if a child finds it, they are likely to put it in their mouth.

When a child is choking, their airway will be partly or completely blocked. This means they may be unable to breathe properly. The child might be able to clear their airway by coughing but if they can’t, you need to act fast and help them straight away!

Signs that your child may be choking

• They may become distressed and panicked

• They may have difficulty breathing, speaking or coughing

• They may be clutching their chest or neck

• Their face may begin to change colour and look red and puffy

• They may become limp or unconscious

Steps to take

Infants & Babies (under 1)

• Turn your child facedown either on your forearm or your lap. Make sure you support their head. They should be positioned so that their face is lower down than their bottom

• Using the heel of your hand, deliver 5 quick sharp back blows between the shoulder blades. Hopefully, this will dislodge the item, if not…

• Try chest thrusts. Turn the baby over so they are facing upwards. Place two fingers in the middle of their chests and give 5 thrusts.

• Repeat the back blows and chest thrusts until the item has moved

• If the blockage does not dislodge, call 999. Continue with these cycles and follow advice from the emergency services

Children over the age of 1

• If the item is visible, try to remove it. Don’t poke with your fingers, especially if you can’t see anything as you may be pushing the object even further down. Ask your child to cough to try and move the item and bring it up.

• Support your child in a forward-leaning position and deliver 5 firm back blows between the shoulder blades. Hopefully, this will dislodge the item, if not…

• Try chest thrusts. To do this you should stand behind them and put your arms around their waist. Place one hand in a clenched fist between their belly button and the bottom of their chest. With your other hand, grasp your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards.

• If the blockage does not dislodge, call 999. Continue with these cycles and follow advice from the emergency services

Unconscious child choking

• If this situation occurs you need to act quickly and you need to get help. Shout for help and call 999.

• Put the child on a firm flat surface and do not leave them at any stage

• Open their mouth and see if the item is visible. If it is, try and grasp to and remove it

• You may need to perform CPR – follow emergency service advice

Tips to prevent choking, and other things to be aware of

• For young children, cut their food into small pieces. Avoid serving foods that pose choking risks and remember that even though something may look small, it can still be dangerous. Eg cut grapes into quarters rather than serving whole

• Do not leave your child playing alone when there are small objects around. Check the floor around your small child to make sure there is nothing there that shouldn’t be

• Always chose safe and age-appropriate toys. Be especially careful if your baby has older siblings who are at an age where it is appropriate to play with small toys. Make sure these don’t fall into the wrong hands

• If your child is choking, do not give them a drink or some food. This will not dislodge the item and may make the situation worse

• You will know that the blockage has definitely cleared as you should see the item come out of their mouth and your child’s breathing should become normal

• Try to position the child the way we have described. Do not hold the child upside down by their feet as this could cause further injury

Get In Touch

If you are interested in learning how to provide essential paediatric lifesaving skills and paediatric incident management, then please get in touch. Call us today on 0151 343 0588 to learn more. Alternatively, you can email us at and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible. We provide paediatric first aid in Wirral, North Wales, Liverpool & Chester.

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