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How to Handle Choking in Young Children

How to Handle Choking in Young Children

Children require round-the-clock supervision as they are still exploring the world around them. At this stage, children’s behaviors are mostly learned via trial and error. However, these normally harmless adventures sometimes turn into real dangers, one of which is choking. Here is how to deal with a choking child over 1 year old.

Signs of Choking

Choking occurs when a foreign object becomes lodged in a person’s throat or windpipe. This is a serious condition because choking can cut off the air supply to the brain. Most often, when adults choke, it is because of a piece of food. A choking child over 1 year old may have been putting small objects in their mouth.

The following signs of choking are universal and apply for both children and adults. Check if your child:

  • Cannot talk
  • Cannot breathe or is having a hard time breathing
  • Is making squeaking sounds when attempting to breathe
  • Is coughing, whether the cough is weak or forceful
  • Has skin, lips and/or nails that are turning blue or dusky
  • Has flushed, pale or bluish skin
  • Is losing consciousness

First Aid for a Choking Baby

If your baby is under 1 year old, here are the steps you must do immediately:

  1. Hold the baby face down on your thigh. Make sure that their head is positioned lower than their bottom. Give five blows on the baby’s back between the shoulder blades. Back blows apply vibrations and pressure to the baby’s airway. Ensure that you are supporting their head and that the blows are firm. If this move does not successfully remove the foreign object, proceed to the second step.
  2. Turn the baby over to face upwards and place two fingers in the center of their chest below their nipples. Give the choking baby five chest thrusts. Make sure to push downwards in a sharp manner. Chest thrusts work to press air out of the baby’s lungs to dislodge the object.
  3. If chest thrusts do not work, call your area’s emergency hotline number. While waiting for emergency help to arrive, continue doing cycles of back blows and chest thrusts, especially if the baby becomes unresponsive.

Remember never to put your fingers in the baby’s mouth, as this might push the obstruction even further into the airway.

First Aid for a Choking Child Over 1 Year Old

If you have a child over 1 year old who appears to be choking, the first step always is to make sure that he or she is, in fact, choking.

If the child is speaking forcefully or talking, the child is not choking. Immediately ask your child: “Are you choking?” If the child nods, tell your child you will help. Refrain from panicking. Call your local emergency hotline while you perform the Heimlich maneuver. To do this, carry out the following steps to help your choking child over 1 year old:

  1. Stand behind your child and wrap your arms around their waist.
  2. Make a fist with one hand, thumb side pointed back toward yourself.
  3. Place your fist below the chest but above the navel and grab your fist with the other hand.
  4. Press up on the abdomen in a sharp motion.
  5. Repeat the move until the foreign object is ejected.
  6. Take your child to the doctor once the blockage is removed, as there may be a possibility that part of the object is still in the lung.
  7. Make sure to inform emergency personnel if the child loses consciousness.

Potential Choking Hazards

If your child is over 1 year old, they are already exploring their environment. They are also already chewing and swallowing solid food. This, together with the way food is prepared, poses a risk for choking.

Food that is uncooked, whole, or has certain shapes, are potential choking hazards. Cutting or mashing up the food can help avoid this occurrence. Pay attention to what your child is putting in his or her mouth.

A choking child over 1 year old might have been trying to eat the following foods:

  • Carrot sticks
  • Whole grapes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Pieces of raw fruit or vegetables
  • Whole nuts
  • Peanut butter chunks
  • A hotdog or sausage slices
  • Seeds
  • Tough meat
  • Popcorn
  • Chips
  • Hard candy
  • Chewing gum

Non-food objects can also be choking hazards. These include:

  • Latex balloons (Children tend to inhale these while trying to inflate them. This is a dangerous potential blockage since it is a smooth material that can fit the form of the throat. The Heimlich maneuver usually does not help in this situation as the air that gets through only makes the balloon cover the passageway completely.)
  • Coins
  • Marbles or small balls
  • Toys with small parts
  • Toys that can be compressed to fit a child’s mouth
  • Pen or marker caps
  • Batteries
  • Syringes
  • Hair clips and beads

Observe your child for signs of coughing, wheezing, or gagging. Also, check if he or she has difficulty swallowing or breathing. If you have a choking child over 1 year, consult your doctor or emergency personnel immediately.

Preventing Choking

To prevent ever getting to the point where you need to perform an emergency procedure on your child, follow these choking prevention tips:

  • Familiarize yourself with choking hazards for young children, as well as older children.
  • Do not allow your kids, especially a child over 1 year old, to run, walk, play, or lay down while they are eating.
  • Cut food into smaller, more manageable pieces for young children.
  • Supervise your child when eating.
  • Be mindful of other children’s actions, as older kids may hand a younger child dangerous food, toys, or small items.
  • Limit toys with small parts or keep them out of reach of small kids.
  • Avail of small parts testers at toy stores or baby specialty stores. If the item can fit completely in the tube, it is a choking hazard for your child.
  • Always check the minimum age indicated on the packaging of toys.
  • Do not allow children to play with coins.
  • It is beneficial to learn first aid for choking and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event you have a choking child over 1 year.

Learn more about Healthy Habits and other First Aid here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Choking (for Parents) – Nemours Accessed 30 Apr 2020

Choking Hazard Safety Accessed 30 Apr 2020

Choking Hazards | Nutrition Accessed 30 Apr 2020

Choking: First aid Accessed 30 Apr 2020

How to Help a Choking Child Accessed 30 Apr 2020

First aid for a baby who is choking Accessed 30 Apr 2020

Choking Prevention Accessed 30 Apr 2020

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Written by Louise Nichole Logarta Updated May 26
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel