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Choking in Children

Choking happens when something blocks the upper airway. For example, popcorn, nuts, hot dogs, or pieces of food that have not been chewed properly, can easily get stuck in the throat and block your child's airway. The blockage makes it hard to breathe. It can be life threatening.

A child who is choking may have trouble talking. Their breathing may be high pitched or they may be wheezing or not able to take a breath at all. They may have forceful coughing, or they not be able to cough. They may clutch at their throat or chest as a sign of distress. Their lips and skin may turn bluish and they may faint.

If a child is choking but still able to breathe and cough and is not turning blue, let them try to cough up the object. If the child has trouble breathing and turns blue, call 911. If you or someone else has been trained to give back blows and abdominal thrusts , you can do that. If the child becomes unresponsive, make sure that someone has called 911 for emergency help.

To prevent choking:

  • Cut food into small pieces that are not round. For example, cut hot dogs lengthwise and then into small pieces. Cut raw vegetables into strips rather than round slices.
  • Don't give peanuts, popcorn, caramels, or raw vegetables to young children.
  • Don't let your child eat while talking, laughing, walking, running, or playing. This lowers the chance that your child will inhale a piece of food that can get stuck in the throat.
  • Don't let children play with toys designed for older children.
  • Keep small items such as marbles, tiny batteries, and coins away from young children.
  • Always supervise children around balloons. A broken or uninflated balloon can be swallowed or inhaled.
  • Do not give chewing gum to young children.

Disclaimer: This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

HIA File emer4899.htm Release 13/2010

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