Most of the time when something blocks your baby’s throat, he or she will instinctively cough, gasp or gag until the object clears their windpipe. Usually children will breathe on their own, and you don’t need to interfere. But if your baby cannot make sounds, stops breathing and turns blue, you must act immediately.
Anytime a baby inhales anything other than air, they will choke. Babies most commonly choke on toys with small parts or foods that “go down the wrong way.” Keep from baby’s reach anything that they can choke on, such as hot dogs, whole grapes and any small food that may obstruct his or her breathing. Coins also are commonly swallowed and can obstruct baby’s airway.
How serious is it? When your baby’s airway is blocked and they cannot clear it, the situation is life-threatening. You must deal with it immediately. The longer your baby is deprived of oxygen, the greater the risk of permanent brain damage or death. If you cannot clear the airway, ask someone to call for emergency help.
What you can do? If your child is coughing, let them cough until the windpipe is clear. If you can see something that’s blocking the throat, carefully place your fingers in the baby’s mouth to remove the obstruction. You don’t want to push the object farther back. If nothing is visible, don’t stick your fingers in their throat. Again, you don’t want to cause the object to become more deeply lodged.
To clear the airway of a choking infant:
- Assume a seated position. Hold the infant face down on your forearm, which is resting on your thigh.
- Thump the infant gently but firmly. Do this five times on the middle of the back using the heel of your hand. The combination of gravity and thumps to the back should release the blocking object.
- Hold the infant faceup on your forearm, with the head tilted downward. Do this if the previous steps don’t work. Using two fingers placed at the center of the infants breastbone, give five quick chest compressions. If the infant is too large, lay them face down on your lap with the head lower than the rest of the body.
- Repeat the thumps to the back and the chest thrusts. Do this if the child’s breathing doesn’t resume. Call for emergency medical help.
- Begin infant CPR. As soon as the obstruction is relieved, either the child will breathe spontaneously or you’ll need to begin CPR.
If the child resumes breathing within a minute or two, they probably won’t suffer any long-term ill effects. If, after the child is breathing again, they continue coughing or choking, it may meant that something is still interfering with their breathing, and you should call 911 or your local emergency number.
Information obtained through Mayo Clinic Guide to your Baby First Year