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St John Ambulance – Choking advice for a child

Basic first aid skills from St John Ambulance can save lives – Choking advice for a child

When a child is choking, their airway is partly or completely blocked, meaning that they may be unable to breathe properly. They might be able to clear it by coughing, but if they can’t, you will need to help them straight away.

Here is some advice from St John Ambulance:

What to look for

* Difficulty breathing, speaking or coughing

* A red puffy face

* Signs of distress and they may point to their throat or grasp their neck.

What to do

  1. If you think a child is choking, ask them ‘Are you choking?’ If they can breathe, speak, or cough then they might be able to clear their own throat. If they cannot breathe, cough, or make any noise, then they need your help straight away
  2. Cough it out. Encourage them to cough and remove any obvious obstruction from their mouth
  3. Slap it out. If coughing fails to work, you need to give five sharp back blows. To do this, help them to lean forwards, supporting their upper body with one hand. With the heel of your other hand give them five sharp back blows between their shoulder blades. After each back blow, check their mouth and pick out any obvious obstruction
    • Do not sweep the mouth as this could push the object further down the throat.
  4. Squeeze it out. If back blows fail to clear the obstruction, give five abdominal thrusts. To do this, stand behind them and put your arms around the child’s waist. Place one hand in a clenched fist between their belly button and the bottom of their chest. With your other hand, grasp your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards up to five times. Check their mouth again, each time
  5. If the blockage has not cleared, call 999 or 112 for emergency help straight away. Repeat five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until help arrives, rechecking their mouth each time
    • If they become unresponsive at any point prepare to start child CPR.
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