First aid for choking

I read a post by a pediatrician last week that gave her opinion that while our government is throwing a lot of money at new nutritional guidelines in an attempt to “fight” childhood obesity, it’s ignoring another food-related danger: choking.

Childhood aspiration (or choking) on food is a major public health issue. Anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 kids visit emergency rooms each year in the U.S. alone, after having suffered a food-choking accident. Hundreds die each year, either in the hospital or before they make it in the door. Most of these kids are under the age of 5, and most of their parents will have had no idea that their child had choked on a high-risk food. The vast majority are preventable, had we only known the risks in advance.

Politics aside, choking is a very real problem in young children (and the elderly). Every parent, teacher or care-giver should be aware of what foods or objects pose the greatest choking risk, and how to give first aid to a choking victim.

It’s easy, and it works.

Choking is very preventable. Small children and infants, especially when they begin crawling, love to put things in their mouths. Keep a sharp eye out for any object that could potentially fit inside your child’s mouth.

If a toy or other object fits inside a toilet paper roll, it’s a choking hazard.

As for food, the author of the post gives this recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

The following foods [should] not be given to children under 5 years old:

  • hard candies or gum
  • raw vegetables in chunks
  • nuts and seeds
  • whole grapes
  • hot dogs
  • chunks of meat or cheese
  • popcorn
  • sticky candy
  • chunks of peanut butter

If you’ve never taken a first aid class, or it’s been a long time, consider taking one now.

Related post: Learn CPR and first aid

Here are two videos from the British Red Cross that demonstrate how to perform first aid on a choking child or infant.



Note: Britain’s emergency number is 999; ours, of course, is 911.

First aid for an adult is the same as for a child: 5 back blows followed by 5 abdominal thrusts.

For first aid advice on the go, I like the American Red Cross first aid app.

red cross health apps









The information is easy to get to in an emergency, and the steps are easy to follow. You can also dial 911 directly from the app.

Be prepared!


Frugal Nurse


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