Know how to save someone who is choking
The holidays are upon us, and so is the increased eating and the risk of choking.
Of course, choking can happen at any time and on a number of things that are not food-related.
“It happens more often than you think,” says Dr. Lisa Gaw, pediatrician and director at Texas Children’s Urgent Care Westgate.
Some common things that kids choke on include food items such as peanuts, nuts, seeds, popcorn and popcorn kernels and hard candy. It’s typically food that is hard and round, she says. Grapes, hot dogs and marshmallows can be problematic. Gaw advises cutting food into strips rather than circles. She also advises not giving children food when they are riding in a car or lounging in a stroller.
Kids also choke on shiny metal objects such as nuts, bolts and screws, paper clips, coins, marbles, broken bits of toys and button batteries (like the kind you find in toys). Kids put all kinds of things in their mouths, after all.
The most surprising items that kids choke on are things that conform to the airway, such as balloons or broken bits of balloons. Conforming objects like balloons are particularly dangerous because it’s difficult to get them out. “You are calling 911 and going to the ER,” Gaw says.
She also advises talking to older kids about all the things not to give their younger brothers or sisters.
How do you know if a kid is choking?
In the beginning, a normally healthy kid is gagging or coughing (trying to get the thing that’s stuck out).
As it continues, they have a hard time crying or speaking to you.
Their lips are turning blue. Their skin has a duskier hue.
Then you have to remember how old the person is who is choking.
Younger than age 1, you are going to do five chest thrusts and five back slaps.
Hold the infant in one hand so that they are facing downward and their head is lower than the rest of the body, but make sure you are also supporting their neck. You can actually be seated and holding them with your arm resting on your thigh.
With your dominant hand, you are going to slap them hard five times with the heel of an open hand on their back between their shoulder blades. You are trying to get that object to come forward.
Flip them over and, with two fingers, do a chest thrust, which is pushing your two fingers in the middle of the sternum and pushing down quickly about 1 1/2 inches.
Repeat until the object falls out.
If they become unconscious, go into their mouth with your fingers and try to clear the airway.
For people 1 and older, you’ll do the Heimlich maneuver.
Stand behind them and reach your arms around their body. Create a fist with one hand and then place the other hand over it. Use your fists to thrust inward and upward right above the bellybutton area. You are trying to dislodge whatever is stuck. If it’s a pregnant woman, you are going to reposition your fists on the breastbone.
If they become unconscious, start CPR. Lay them down on a hard, flat surface like the floor. Position your hands with the heel of one hand on the breastbone and the other one on top of it. You can line up your hands to be in between where you think their nipples are as a guide. Push down about 2 inches to the tune of “Staying Alive” for 30 compressions. Then you’ll check to see if they are breathing or they have a pulse before repeating. You can do two rescue breaths into their mouth before starting the next set of 30 compressions, but you don’t have to. Your primary goal is to get that oxygen-filled blood flowing around their body and to their brain.
The best way to prevent a death by choking is by taking a CPR and first aid class that covers infants, children and adults.