How do you know if your baby is choking?

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17 Oct 2022

How do you know if your baby is choking?

Daisy First Aid
How do you know if your baby is choking?

How do you know if your baby is choking?

One of the main reasons parents book on to a Daisy First Aid class is because they are concerned about their little one choking. Fears around choking are really common and completely valid.

It’s important to be able to recognise the difference between gagging or mild choking and severe choking and to know what to do if your little one does choke so you can act fast.

Did you know that babies’ gag reflexes are much more sensitive than an adults? This is to help keep them safe when are learning how to eat. They will also sometimes get breathing, chewing and swallowing in the wrong order, which can lead to mild choking or gagging.

Mild choking/gagging

The key thing to remember is that if a baby is going red in the face and is coughing and spluttering or gagging that’s actually a really good sign that they aren’t choking severely. In most cases they should be able to work it out themselves.

It can be tempting to stick your fingers in their mouth to fish out whatever’s in there. This is actually the worst thing to do at this point because it can actually make things worse and lead to severe choking.

Signs that a child is mildly choking or gagging:

  • They will open their mouth and thrust their tongue forward. They may go red in the face.
  • Baby will cough and splutter (these are good signs)
  • If they’re going red and making a sound – leave them to it; they should be able to work it out themselves.

Severe choking

There’s a common misconception that you will hear someone choking but severe choking is usually completely silent. Which is why it’s so important to always supervise babies and children while they are eating. 

Signs that a baby is choking severely:

  • They will be silent and unable to cough or make any noise
  • They will begin to turn blue
  • They may have a panicked or surprised look on their face
  • Their eyes may bulge

If a baby is choking severely you’ll need to act fast to remove the blockage.

You should:

  • Sit or kneel and lay the baby over your lap with their head lower than their bottom and their face pointing down whilst supporting their chest.
  • Deliver up to 5 blows to their back in between the shoulder blades using the heel of your hand.
  • If the blockage hasn’t been removed, turn the baby over to face you with their head still lower than their bottom.
  • Use 2 fingers to give up to 5 chest thrusts on top of baby’s ribcage (never give abdominal thrusts to a baby).
  • Call 999 and repeat these measures until the blockage is removed or help arrives.

Jenni Dunman, CEO and founder of Daisy First Aid will be speaking on The Live Talks Stage with Boots at The Baby Show with Lidl, Olympia London at 10:00 on Friday 21st October, Saturday 22nd October and Sunday 23rd October, demonstrating these techniques. See the full timetable here.


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