How to Help a Choking Infant: Step-by-Step Instructions

How to Help a Choking Infant: Step-by-Step Instructions

Safe Kids Mid-South, led by Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, recommends that parents and caregivers of children learn choking first aid and CPR just in case it is ever needed. The following information comes from "How to Help a Choking Infant" as recommended by the American Heart Association

Call 9-1-1 if your child is:

  • Unconscious
  • Not able to breathe because something is blocking the airway or has caused it to close off
  • Wheezing or gasping
  • Not able to cry, talk, or make noise
  • Turning blue in the face
  • Grabbing at the throat
  • Looking panicked

Choking in Infants (Age 1 and Younger)

Choking occurs when food or other objects get stuck in the airway or throat, stopping air from getting to the lungs. Some choking is mild and some is severe. If it is severe, act fast. Get the object out so that the infant can breathe.

Mild versus Severe Choking

If the infant:              The block in the airway is:                       You should:
Can Make Sounds MILD Stand by
Can Cough Loudly MILD Allow infant to cough; if worried about breathing, call 9-1-1
Cannot Breathe SEVERE Call 9-1-1, Act Quickly
Has a Cough that Has no Sound, or Cannot Make a Sound SEVERE Call 9-1-1, Follow the steps to help a choking infant

How to Help a Choking Infant   

Step 1         

Call 9-1-1. While you are awaiting on them to arrive, hold the infant face down on your forearm. Support the infant’s head and jaw with your hand.

Step 2         

Give 5 back slaps with the heel of your other hand between the infant’s shoulder blades.

Step 3         

If the object does not come our after 5 back slaps, turn the infant onto his back, supporting the head.

Step 4          

Give 5 chest thrusts using 2 fingers of your other hand to push up on the chest in the same place you should push for CPR

Step 5         

Repeat giving 5 back slaps and 5 chest thrusts until the infant can breath, coughs or until the infant stops responding

How to Help a Choking Infant Who Stops Responding     

Step 1         

Call 9-1-1. While you are awaiting on help to arrive, place the infant on a firm, flat surface.

Step 2         

Tap infant’s foot and shout the infant’s name to see if the infant responds.

Step 3         

Yell for help.

Step 4         

Check for breathing. Look from head to belly to see if the infant is breathing. Do this for 5 seconds. (If the infant isn’t breathing at all or is “gasping”, then the infant needs CPR).

Step 5         

Move clothes out of the way to push on the chest 30 times just above the nipple line. Push down about 1 ½ inches at the rate of 100 pushes per minute. After each push, let the chest come back up to its normal position.

Step 6         

After 30 pushes, open the airway with a head tilt-chin lift (like sniffing). If you see an object, take it out.

Step 7         

Cover the infant’s mouth and nose with your mouth and give 2 breaths (blow for one second each). Watch the chest rise as you give each breath.

Step 8         

Repeat giving sets of 30 pushes and 2 breaths, checking the mouth for objects after each set of pushes, until the infant starts to respond on the emergency medical service arrives and takes over.

Want to learn more about Emergency Medicine at Le Bonheur?

Emergency Medicine

Want to find an appointment for your child?
Call 1-866-870-5570.

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