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What to do when a child is choking

Phone 000 if a baby is choking or ask a child to cough to clear the blockage
  • 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 very small pieces, and supervise children while they’re eating, especially if they’re under five years old.

  • 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 and, if you are able to clear the blockage, the ambulance can be cancelled.

  • 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).

 

Clearing a blockage - babies under 1 year

Demostration of the back blows and chest thrusts that can help relieve a baby who is choking
  • 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. Clear the blockage from baby’s mouth with your little finger.

  • 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. Check to see if the blockage has cleared between each chest thrust.

  • If baby is still choking, check to see that 000 has been called and alternate five back blows and five chest thrusts until emergency help arrives. If at any point baby becomes unconscious, start CPR.

 

Clearing a blockage - children over 1 year

For children over one year: back blows between shoulder blades; chest thrusts; 000 and CPR is choking continues.
  • Bend your 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 the 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, perform five chest thrusts – like CPR compressions but slower and sharper. Check to see if the blockage has cleared between each chest 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 CPR.

 
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  • Last Updated 26-01-2011
  • Last Reviewed 02-11-2009
  • Acknowledgements

    Thanks to St John Ambulance Australia for their help in developing this content. 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 the St John Ambulance website.