Breaking News
More () »

How to help a choking child

True choking is silent. Here's how to prevent it, spot it, and what to do if it happens.

MINNEAPOLIS — Choking is scary no matter the person's age. But when a child chokes, it can send their caregiver into a panic. 

Dr. Kari Schneider, pediatric emergency medicine physician at M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital, gives advice on what to do if it happens to you.

How do you know if your child is choking?

"True choking is silent," Schneider said.

This can be confusing for caregivers who see a child cough, gag, or sputter while eating. That may be scary, but it's not true choking. And Dr. Schneider says intervening in that case, by taking a child out of their high chair or patting their back, can actually move the food into a position which will cause them to truly choke.

"That can make things go down further and be more of a problem," Schneider said.

Schneider says remember this saying: Loud and red, let them go ahead. Silent and blue, they need help from you. 

How do you help a choking baby?

If the child can fit in the crook of your arm, you'll want to use this next method to get the food out. 

1. Grab them.

2. Flip them over so their body is facedown straddling your arm with their head supported in the palm of your hand. Your arm should be pointed at a slight downward angle. 

3. Give five firm back thrusts. Schneider says the thrusts should be pretty hard, do not worry about hurting them. 

"It would be very hard for you to hit a child hard enough to break their bones in this scenario," she said. "Also, I would much prefer to take care of a child with a broken rib than a child who didn't survive choking."

4. Flip the baby over so they are facing up. If you can see the food at this point, flick it out of their mouth. However, be careful not to do anything that will push the food down further. 

Put two fingers on the chest bone, between the baby's nipples and push down five times.

5. Keep alternating between back thrusts with the child facing down, and finger thrusts with the child facing up until the food is out or they go unresponsive. 

6. If a child becomes unresponsive, call 911 and begin CPR.

The Red Cross offers CPR classes. You can register for them here. The Red Cross also recommends downloading their free first aid app, here.

Credit: KARE
Dr. Kari Schneider demonstrates on a dummy how to perform back thrusts on a choking baby. The baby's head should be supported by the palm of your hand.

How do you help a choking child?

If the child is too large to fit in the crook of your arm, you'll help them in a way that looks like the Heimlich maneuver performed on adults.

1. Take the child out of their booster seat, or whatever they're sitting on, and then get down on their level. You should not be lifting the child up while performing the maneuver. They should be on the ground.

2. Get behind the child and make a fist. Put your fist at the child's belly button level and cover it up with your other hand.

3. Give upward thrusts until the food comes out or the child becomes unresponsive. If the child becomes unresponsive, call 911 and begin performing CPR.

Credit: KARE
Dr. Kari Schneider demonstrates the correct grip for the Heimlich maneuver on her three-year-old daughter.

How do you prevent kids from choking?

In a special edition of KARE in the Kitchen, Dr. Schneider shows Alicia and Jennifer how to prepare your child's food to minimize the risk of choking. Watch at 9 a.m. Thursday on the KARE 11 Facebook page. 

RELATED: Minnesota teen receives worldwide recognition for saving life at McDonald's drive-thru

RELATED: Thousands of toddler walkers sold at Target recalled for choking hazard

Paid Advertisement

Before You Leave, Check This Out