We were sitting in a local restaurant with my toddler, having a nice lunch, when I noticed he seemed to be quiet all of a sudden. He was making a strained face like was trying to cough. When I asked if he was okay, I got nothing. No response. Louder I asked, “Are you ok?”.
He wasn’t old enough to have conversations, but he would always respond. I asked again, nothing. At that moment my heart dropped and I realized what was happening: he’s choking.
I’ve always been the kind to remain calm when an emergency situation comes around. But this was my kid. Still, it’s not in my nature to panic. I quickly got up, leaned him forward, and hit him firmly between the shoulders a few times. Nothing.
Panic starts to creep in.
In a crowded restaurant, nobody seemed to notice except my wife. Thinking back to my CPR training, I sit him up a little, put my fist into his mid-section, and give a hard fast squeeze. Nothing. On the second squeeze (with a little more force), a piece of food shot out of his mouth and landed on the table. Still, nobody noticed. He cried a little and after a couple of minutes he took a drink and went back to eating.
And then…it happened again about 8 months later. Same place, same situation, same result.
In the U.S. alone, 34 children a day, almost 12,000 per year, are admitted to the ER because they have choked on food according to a study in the journal Pediatrics. What’s more alarming is these are only the REPORTED cases. How many kids, like mine, get through it and never go to the doctor?
If you learn one thing as a parent or caregiver, it should be how to do CPR. It just might save the life of your child, friend, family, or random stranger. Such was the case near me recently when a high school cheerleader jumped from a float during a parade because she spotted a child in the crowd choking on a piece of candy.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE WHEN SOMEONE IS CHOKING
Choking as an adult or child can look different. Adults usually grab their throats and can signal that they are choking. This doesn’t always happen, especially with younger children. In CPR classes I’ve taken, they tell you a person choking will often run to the restroom. For this reason, if you see someone clutch at their throat or look panicked and run out of the room, it’s best to follow.
Make no mistake, this is an emergency. It’s important to know what to watch for and how to react BEFORE you find yourself in this situation.
Signs of choking include one or more of the following:
- Can’t breathe
- Gasping / wheezing
- Can’t talk, cry, or make any noise
- Appears to be panicked or afraid
- Turns blue
- Looses consciousness
WHAT TO DO
Point at someone and tell them to call 911. Don’t yell it out loud, point at a person and tell them to do it. This avoids everybody assuming someone else is going to call. Maybe multiple people end up calling, that’s fine. Better safe than sorry.
DO NOT try to reach in and clear the object! This is more likely to force it farther into the throat.
For infants up to 1 year old
For children over a year old
If you’re choking and alone
Anything smaller than a D-size battery can cause choking and can be a risk to children.
Food: be sure to cut grapes in half, or better, thirds. Hot dog bites, candy, pieces of meat that are too big are all leading causes of choking.
Other items can include toys, household items, objects in the yard, or anything small enough to get in their mouth. Breaking news: children LOVE to put EVERYTHING in their mouth!
How To Prevent Choking
- Sit while eating. No running around or playtime.
- Make sure your child throughly chews their food
- Cut foods into very small pieces
- Keep small objects out of reach of small hands
- Select toys with big pieces, no small parts
- Put child safety locks on drawers and cabinets
Invest the time to learn CPR and what to do if you come across someone that’s choking. It happens more than you think, and you might be the only one who can save your child’s life!
Have you ever been somewhere when you’ve seen someone choking?