Every parent dreads being in a situation where their child suddenly needs emergency care; choking is one of these scenarios and it is a lot more common than you would think. Around 16,000 choking cases are treated in UK hospitals every year and this doesn’t take account of all the near misses and and cases where parents have to rescue their children.
The Choking Algorithm
This is a way of working out what to do when you encouter a child who is choking. The choking algorithm is summarised in the diagram below:
For further details on the rescuscitation algorithm you should visit the guidelines on the Resuscitation Council’s website.
Milk – Many newborn children choke on breastmilk or substitute milk due to an immature swallowing system, or variability of the milk flow due to a new breast milk supply suddenly starting to flow. A sudden increase in flow can be experienced by newborns who have had a tongue-tie removed and therefore are able to latch on a lot more easily. It is very important that mothers of babies who have a had a tongue tie removed monitor the flow of milk to their baby until they get used to the new increased flow.
Food – Childrens risk of choking begins to increase around the age of weaning because this is the age they start take in pureed food and then solids, therefore they are exposed to the possibility of food going down the wrong way due to lack of experience in swallowing the new textures. This is why parents are advised to make sure chidren’s food is always cut up into small pieces and children are encouraged to chew their food throughly. String food such as sausages can be a serious choking hazard as babies become toddlers.
Putting things in their mouth – A child who is old enough to crawl will invariably start to move around a room looking for things to put in their mouth. This is a particularly dangerous time for babies and it is vital that rooms are checked throughly for potential choking hazards. Children can also accidentally inhale small objects including toys in their sleep, which is particularly dangerous because the object can go down the windpipe, obstructing the trachea.
Unsafe bedding or toys – It is important that you check every object for potential danger before it comes into contact with your child, this will help ensure that your child doesn’t come into contact with choking hazards from loose strings and other materials, broken parts of toys or parts of bedding. But it is not just products that are designed and made for children that can be hazrdous to them. Most objects that are made for children have to pass tests which will check for potential hazards such as choking, whereas other household objects are not exposed to such scrutiny. A home is full of potential choking hazards and it is important that you keep all small objects out of the reach of tiny hands.
Dysphagia – Dysphagia is not a disorder in itself but rather a sympton caused by a range of medical defects characterised by a difficulty in swallowing which can make babies and young children much more vulnerable to a choking episode. One such cause a weakness in the muscles used for swallowing and it is important that if your child shows symptoms of this disorder that you take them to your doctor for an examination.
There are a number of preventative measures you can take in your own home to help safeguard your child from the potential of choking. Most child choking incidents occur when children are either playing or eating therefore it is of vital importance that you make sure that the food they eat is of suitable and safe size and texture and you should make sure that the floors of all play areas are free of small objects that a child could choke on.
Prevent choking on Food – The key in preventing children choking on food is ensuring that the food supply is not more than the child can handle: in newborn babies you should take care that you milk flow does not suddenly become too strong; whereas in weaning babies or toddlers you can ensure their safety by chopping up food finely and following rules that will make vegetables, meats and fruits safer.
For example grapes should always be chopped longtitudinally:
By chopping grapes longtitudinally you will make them thinner, making their safe passage down your babies mouth easier and thus choking less likely.
Prevent choking on toys – Although toys have a minimum age requirement on the boxes it is also a duty of the parent to ensure that the toys they are playing with are suitable for their age as it is so easy for bits of toys to get stuck in children’s mouths. It can be particularly difficult to safeguard children from their toys when there is more than one child in the household and so a younger child can choke on a loose part of an older child’s toy. Make sure your children only play with toys that are designed for their age so that they are safe.
Prevent choking on household objects – After a child is born small household objects that were once innocuous can become lethal objects if they are not kept away from young hands. When a child gets old enough to crawl they will invariably shoot around the house looking for new textures to put in their mouth, it is at this stage that children are most susceptible to choking. Therefore a parent should always scan a room before putting their child in it to make sure there are no dangerous items on the floor.
Buy a playpen – A playpen, or infant play yard as they are sometimes referred to, can become an area in your house that is completely safe. You can keep an eye on your child as they play knowing that there are no objects small enough that they can grab and place in their mouth – very reassuring for any parent. Putting the child in the playpen will also give the parent some respite and time to relax without worrying abouth them coming to harm.
Avoid balloons and plastic bags – Some objects have obvious harm potential to children, some of the most obvious are plastic bags and balloons which can fall apart and bits get stuck in the childs mouth. It is best if you keep these items hidden away where children do not have acces to them.
Choking First Aid
Around 25 children under five die each year in the UK as a result of choking, making it the third most common cause of death in that age range. Although witnessing a choking infant is a terrifying experience, the actions of carers or parents at the scene can have a huge difference on the outcome if they are prepared.Whatever the age of the child you should encoyrage them to try and cough it out by coughing yourself, hopefully they will mimic you and in the act of coughing dislodge the object. But if they are unable to remove the object and are still choking you should follow the course of action below .
Helping children who are choking – If you are dealing with a choking baby then you should rest the baby on your thigh with it’s head facing away from you.
Then slap them firmly on the back, between the shoulder blades. Find out more about by watching the video below:
If this still does not clear the airways you should immediatelly call 999 and in the meantime you might follow the instructions in the second part of the St john Ambulance video, which trains you to deal with an unconscious choking baby by giving CPR
Child First Aid Courses Contact Numbers
If you would like to find out more about child first aid then it is well worth doing a child first aid course. There are a host of child first aid courses available in most UK cities, these are run by nationally recognised training providers such as the St. John Ambulance and the British Red Cross. there is also the option of choosing a local provider. For contact numbers of the British Red Cross and other training providers please follow this link: Child First Aid Training provider contact details