What is choking?


Choking in children: Overview

Young children can easily choke on everyday objects and food. You can help prevent your child from choking by offering the right kinds of foods, teaching your child safe eating habits, and keeping an eye out for choking hazards.

What are signs of choking?

A person who is choking (whose airway is completely blocked by food or an object):

  • Can't cry, talk, breathe, or cough.
  • May grasp their throat.
  • May become severely anxious or agitated.
  • May turn blue or dusky in color.
  • May pass out.

A choking rescue procedure (the Heimlich maneuver) is used to clear an obstruction in adults and children older than 1 year. Back blows and chest thrusts are used in babies younger than 1 year.

Preventing your child from choking on toys and other objects

You can help prevent your child from choking by following basic safety tips.

  • Teach your child not to put objects in their mouth.
  • Know what things a child is likely to choke on.

    Choking hazards include:

    • Toys such as marbles, balloons, or toys with small parts that can come off.
    • Household objects such as coins, buttons, and even jewelry.
    • Kitchen objects such as bottle caps and eggshells.
  • Test small objects by passing them through a toilet-paper tube.

    If small objects fit inside, they could become lodged in the throat of a young child.

  • Look for age guidelines when selecting toys.
    • Do not let your child play with a toy if they are younger than the recommended age for the toy.
    • The safest toys for small children are at least 1.25 in. (3 cm) around or 2.25 in. (6 cm) in length.

How can you care for yourself if you choke?

If you choke while you are alone, use your fists to do thrusts on yourself. Or lean over the back of a chair and press hard to pop out the object.

Choking in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse trouble breathing.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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