As little ones discover the world around them, trying new foods and exploring their surroundings by putting things in their mouths, it can be quite common for them to choke. Choking is one of the first aid scenarios that’s most feared by parents, but the skills to help are simple, easy to remember and highly effective. Learning these first aid skills can help you feel confident that you could act in an emergency should you ever need to.
Visit the British Red Cross First Aid Academy at The Baby Show to sign up for a free first aid taster session and learn how to help if a baby is choking, has a burn, has a fever or is having a febrile seizure. You can also learn more about booking a first aid course or download the free Baby and Child First Aid app from your Apple or Android store.
Start your learning now by finding out how to help if a baby or child is choking.
How to help if a baby (under the age of one) is choking
A baby who is choking will be unable to cry, cough, make any noise or breathe.
1. Give up to five back blows: hold the baby face-down along your thigh with their head lower than their bottom. Hit them firmly on their back between the shoulder blades up to five times. If back blows do not dislodge the blockage, move on to step 2.
2. Give up to five chest thrusts: turn the baby over so they are facing upwards. Place two fingers in the middle of their chest just below the nipples. Push sharply downwards up to five times.
3. Call 999 if the blockage does not dislodge. Continue with cycles of back blows and chest thrusts until the blockage dislodges or help arrives.
How to help if a child (one year to puberty) is choking
A child who is choking may be clutching at their chest or neck and won’t be able to speak, breathe or cough.
1. Give up to five back blows: hit them firmly on their back between the shoulder blades. If back blows do not dislodge the object, move on to step 2.
2. Give up to five abdominal thrusts: hold the child around the waist and pull inwards and upwards above their belly button.
3. Call 999 if the blockage does not dislodge. Continue with cycles of back blows and abdominal thrusts until the blockage dislodges or help arrives.
Lucy Piper, presenter at The Baby Show, has heard first aid advice from the British Red Cross many times on the main stage – but she never thought she’d have to use the skills she’d seen. Then one day, when her son was a toddler, he choked on a sweet.
“My instincts kicked in from listening to the British Red Cross trainers on the stage,” Lucy recalls. “I did a couple of good strong back blows between his shoulder blades, and the sweet shot across the carpet. It happened in moments, and the skill I had learned was very quick and very effective.”
Lucy would encourage all parents to come along to the show and learn some first aid. “I think as a parent sometimes you feel guilty if they get hurt because you think they should never come to harm or you’re not doing your job properly, but that’s not true – that’s life,” she says.
“I think every parent should arm themselves with the basics because our children are the most precious little things in our worlds.”
Photographs: Bob Collier/BRC; Lucy’s own.