Choking In Babies: What To Do and How To Prevent It

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Choking is an emergency that requires immediate action.

Can you tell if a baby is choking? Do you know the steps you can take to save a choking baby?

The airway of infants are small and due to the fact that the mastery of chewing and swallowing is a gradual process, they are at risk of choking.

Choking is an emergency where every second count. As a parent or caregiver, you need to learn the basics to save a baby’s life before professional help arrives.

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What is choking?

Choking is the partial or total blockage of the airway by food or an object.

The signs to watch out for when an infact is choking includes;

  • Gagging
  • Coughing
  • Making choking noises
  • Finding it difficult to breathe
  • Restlessness
  • Becoming pale
  • Unconsciousness

What to do if your baby is choking

Step 1. Confirm that your baby is choking

Babies may gag or cough during a meal or while playing. If they can breathe well or make noise, they are not choking.

If the baby is confirmed to be choking, have a family member or neighbour call your clinic emergency line.

Step 2. Hold the baby with the face down and the head higher than the bottom

In this position, use your thigh as support and firmly hit the back between the shoulders 5 times.

This blow will create enough pressure and vibration to dislodge the material blocking the airway.

If nothing comes out from the baby’s mouth move on to step 3.

Step 3. Turn the baby over with the face upwards

In this position, place 2 fingers in the middle of the chest just below the nipples and give sharp push downwards 5 times.

This will help squeeze air from the lungs to dislodge the blockage.

Repeat step 2 and 3 if the object is not dislodged while calling the emergency line.

If the object is vomited, take your baby to the hospital for a checkup.

What not to do when your baby is choking

  1. Do not panic as every second counts in saving the child’s life.
  2. Resist the urge to put your hands into the baby’s mouth especially when you can’t see what is blocking the airway. This will push the object inside more causing more harm.
  3. Do not flip the baby upside down and hold by the feet to shake him/her. It will make it worse and the baby may fall from your grasp.
  4. Do not perform the Heimlich Maneuver as that would damage the baby’s organs.

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What is the cause of choking?

The most common cause is food. Example of edibles that can cause choking in infants include;

  • Grape
  • Meat
  • Popcorn
  • Groundnut
  • Raw beans
  • Chewing gum
  • Candy or lollipops
  • Seeds from fruits

Babies tend to put things in their mouth a lot which is why you need to be wary of objects they might come across while crawling or playing.

These objects include;

  • Coins
  • Pen cover
  • Beads
  • Dice
  • Balloons
  • Toys with small or broken parts
  • Stone or pebbles

Babies can also choke from fluids such as breast milk, water even their own mucus or saliva.

How to prevent choking in babies

  • Feed babies food appropriate to their age

Weaning can be an exciting process for mothers to try adult foods but it should be considered that infants are slow at chewing and may swallow more.
Hence, it is important to mash food properly and feed pureed meals

  • Monitor while eating

Infants should be monitored closely as they could choke on their meals and they should be fed in one spot.
After eating, help sit up for a while and should be allowed to burp before lying them down.
Babies should be made to lie on their side to ensure excess fluid or meals in their mouth sip out with the aid of gravity to prevent choking.

  • Do not force feed

Force feeding can cause aspiration and choking in infants. Do not practice it on your baby. If your baby is not feeding well, go to your hospital for a checkup.

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  • Create a safe play space

Remove items or materials babies are likely to choke on from your home or within reach. If you find it hard to achieve a baby proof your home, create a gated space for your baby to play in.

  • Read labels on toys

Toy manufacturers label toys according to the age they are appropriate to play with hence, read them before giving it to your baby.
Other kids in the home may want to share their toys with the baby, educate them on the dangers and reason why they should not do it.
Any damaged or tiny toy should be discarded immediately.

You may not be around to monitor your baby every time but keeping your environment safe and feeding age appropriate meals and other tips listed above will reduce the risk of choking.

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Share this information with family, you may save a life.

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