Choking in children

Choking in children can be really frightening. Children, especially those between the ages of 1 and 5, often put objects in their mouths. They do this as part of their exploration of the world.

They have narrow airways and are still learning how to chew, breathe, and swallow properly (add talking or moving around and it becomes really complicated).

Marbles, beads, and button batteries are all small enough to get stuck in a child’s airway and choke them.

If you want to avoid this, make sure that small objects like these are kept out of your children’s reach.

It is possible for your child to choke on something no matter how careful you are. Most of the time, a parent or another family member will witness your child swallow an object that causes choking.

Your child may cough for other reasons. However, if your child suddenly starts coughing, isn’t ill, and puts small objects in their mouth, there’s a good chance they’re choking.

How to help a choking child

  • If you can see the object, try to remove it. Don’t poke blindly or repeatedly with your fingers. You could make things worse by pushing the object further in and making it harder to remove.
  • If your child’s coughing loudly, encourage them to carry on coughing to bring up what they’re choking on and don’t leave them.
  • When your child coughs ineffectively—that is, when it’s silent or they are having trouble breathing—call for assistance right away and determine if they are still conscious.
  • Use back blows if the child is still conscious but isn’t coughing or isn’t coughing effectively.

Back blows for babies under 1 year

  • Sit down and lay your baby face down along your thigh or forearm, supporting their back and head with your hand.
  • Sit down and lay your baby face down along your thigh or forearm, supporting their back and head with your hand.

Back blows for children over 1 year

  • Lay a small child face down on your lap as you would a baby.
  • If this isn’t possible, support your child in a forward-leaning position and give 5 back blows from behind.
  • If back blows don’t relieve the choking and your baby or child is still conscious, try abdominal thrusts or chest thrusts. This will induce an artificial cough, which will raise the chest’s pressure and help in the object’s removal.

Chest thrusts for children under 1 year

  • Lay your baby face up along the length of your thighs.
  • Find the breastbone and place 2 fingers in the middle.
  • Give 5 sharp chest thrusts (pushes), compressing the chest by about a third.

Abdominal thrusts for children over 1 year

  • Stand behind the person who is choking
  • Place your arms around their waist and bend them forward
  • Clench your fist and place it between the navel and the bottom of their breastbone
  • Put the other hand on top of your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards
  • Repeat this movement up to five times.

Following chest or abdominal thrusts, reassess your child as follows;

  • If the object remains in place and your child is still conscious, repeat the back blows and chest/abdominal thrusts.
  • If you’re still by yourself, call for assistance or send someone.
  • Keep the child with you.

If, despite trying back blows and either chest or abdominal thrusts, the blockage persists, dial 999. Continue doing this cycle until help arrives.

Even if the object has come out, get medical help. Part of the object might have been left behind, or your child might have been hurt by the procedure.

How can I learn CPR?

Cross Counties Training would like to help you to learn CPR, so that you know what to do in these circumstances.

Take a look at just some of the certified First Aid training courses we offer to help you and your business to be prepared:

Paediatric First Aid Level 3 Training Course – Cross Counties Training

Level 3 Emergency First Aid at Work – Cross Counties Training

Corporate First Aid Training – Cross Counties Training

First Aid at Work Requalification 12 Hour Course – Cross Counties Training

If you would like to speak to us about how we could help with your First Aid training requirements, please call us on 01276 586943 or email us at for hassle-free bookings.