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What to do when a child is choking
- Babies and young children can choke on anything smaller than a D-size battery. To prevent choking, keep small objects out of reach, cut up food into small pieces, and supervise children while they’re eating, especially if they’re under five years.
- If a baby show signs of choking, phone 000 immediately and follow the steps to clear a blockage (shown below). The operator will stay on the line.
- If a child shows signs of choking, stay calm and ask him to cough to help remove the object. If this doesn’t work, follow the steps to clear a blockage (shown below).
Choking first aid: clearing a blockage for babies under one year
- Lay baby downwards on your forearm. Using the heel of your hand, give her a firm back blow between the shoulder blades. Give up to five back blows, and check between each blow to see if the blockage has cleared.
- If the blockage hasn’t cleared, lay baby on her back, place two fingers in the centre of her chest, and give her up to five chest thrusts – like CPR compressions but slower and sharper. Check to see if the blockage has cleared between each thrust.
- If baby is still choking, check that someone has called 000 and alternate five back blows and five chest thrusts until emergency help arrives. If at any point baby becomes unconscious, start baby CPR.
Choking first aid: clearing a blockage for children and teens
- Bend the child forward and use the heel of your hand to give a sharp back blow between the shoulder blades. Check to see if the blockage has cleared before giving another blow. If the blockage hasn’t cleared after five blows, try chest thrusts.
- Place one hand in the middle of the child’s back and the other hand in the centre of his chest. Using the heel of the hand on the chest, do five chest thrusts – like CPR compressions but slower and sharper. Check to see if the blockage has cleared between each thrust.
- If the child is still choking, call 000 and alternate five back blows and five chest thrusts until emergency help arrives. If at any point the child becomes unconscious, start child CPR.
- Last updated or reviewed
This guide was developed with the help of St John Ambulance Australia. The guide was reviewed in collaboration with the Royal Children’s Hospital Safety Centre and Emergcare: Emergency Care Education Services.
Please note: This information is not a substitute for first aid training. St John recommends that everyone is trained in first aid. For more information, visit St John Ambulance.