At Infant CPR, we believe in being prepared. We have seen firsthand how CPR and choking relief training can save lives, and we want all parents and caregivers to have the confidence to step up and act in an emergency situation.
As important as we know training is, however, we also believe strongly in prevention.
(After all, it’s best for everyone if you never have to actually use your CPR or choking relief training, right?)
That’s why we believe in preparation beyond taking our certification courses, like creating a safe sleeping area and making sure your home is “babyproofed” as much as possible.
Something else you can do to prepare is recognizing the top choking hazards for infants and children. Choking is a very serious thing that can cause lasting damage or death to an infant or child. This is why it’s crucial to know common choking hazards so you can eliminate them or keep them out of the baby or child’s reach.
We all may be aware of some of these choking hazards, but some are less obvious things that you may have not thought of before.
Take a look at this list of top choking hazards for infants and children:
Top choking hazards—food items
- Hot dogs
- Candy (hard or sticky/chewy)
- Raw vegetables
Top choking hazards—non-food items
1. Small Batteries
Toys often come with small lithium batteries. Batteries are particularly dangerous because they not only pose a choking threat but can cause internal bleeding that will sometimes lead to death. Batteries are a significant safety hazard.
2. Safety Pins
Safety pins are often misplaced and forgotten. They are small enough to lodge in the esophagus and if unhinged, can poke and cause bleeding. Put them away!
3. Legos & Other Small Toys
Families with older children need to be particularly aware of small toys. Train your older child to always clean up his or her toys and keep a watchful eye out for stray Lego pieces.
A favorite decoration at every birthday party, balloons pose an extreme choking threat. A deflated balloon is easy to swallow and will conform to the shape of the trachea, cutting off airflow and making it almost impossible to dislodge. Pop and throw away your old balloons immediately after the party.
5. Pen Caps
Pen caps are ubiquitous and very easy to lose. It’s a good idea to double check your couch cushions every once in a while. Also, consider moving that junk drawer into a cabinet that is more difficult to reach.
Jewelry is small, shiny and irresistible. If your toddler can pull herself upright, it’s time organize your nightstand! No more plopping your earring on the nightstand at the end of the evening. Put them in a drawer or in a hard-to-reach cabinet.
Marbles look like candy and are perfectly shaped to slip into the esophagus. We recommend that you simply remove toys that involve marbles. The kids can find something else to do!
8. Small Rocks
Do you have gravel? Do your toddlers like to explore outside? If so, scour your landscape for small pebbles that could present a choking hazard.
9. Board Game Pieces
Are you a Settlers of Catan fanatic? Make sure to double-check your table and floors after your epic victory. Those colorful little pieces are perfect toddler bait and are easy to swallow.
10. Refrigerator Magnets
From a toddler’s perspective, refrigerator magnets are like tiny treasures begging to be taste-tested. Don’t overburden your magnets with Aunt May’s extra thick Christmas card. Secure them high above the stretching hands of little toddlers.
As always, be vigilant and keep small items out of reach. If a choking incident does happen, then don’t be powerless.
Note: it is more common for infants and children to choke on food items than on non-food items.
Tips for choking prevention
Besides being aware of the top choking hazards for infants and children, there are a couple other things you should do in the name of choking prevention.
- Cut foods into small pieces. Even foods that are “easy” to chew, like hot dogs and grapes, should be cut into very small pieces to prevent choking.
- Cook vegetables to make them softer. Crunchy vegetables are harder for young children to chew completely, making them a common choking hazard. Cooking vegetables (by steaming, for example) makes them softer and easier to chew.
- Avoid eating on-the-go (e.g. in the car). When a child is distracted, they are less likely to focus on chewing their food completely. It is safest to eat at a table at home, so they child can chew food completely before swallowing.
- Keep small toy parts out of reach. You should even keep these things out of reach of older children, as older children may leave them out where a younger child or infant could reach the object and put it in their mouth.
- Be extra cautious with children with certain disabilities or illnesses. Some disabilities (notably cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and chronic asthma) can make children more susceptible to choking. If you’re caring for an infant or child with these problems or others, take special care when it comes to choking prevention.
Warning Signs that Your Infant is Choking
When you become a parent for the first time, or when you find yourself caring for infants regularly, you suddenly become acutely aware of everything that could go wrong with the baby. Those sweet infants seem so fragile and helpless, and we want to do everything we can to be prepared to help them should an emergency situation arise.
Most of the time, it’s relatively clear when your infant is suffering, hurt, or in danger. Other times, however, the signs of danger are more subtle. This can sometimes be the case with choking.
Choking is extremely dangerous for young babies, who not only are not able to help themselves while choking, but are not even able to communicate that they are choking. This leaves it entirely up to the parent or caregiver to recognize the signs of choking and take steps to clear the infant’s airway.
Choking relief training is something that Infant CPR provides in each of our CPR certification courses, including the course for infants. That is the best way to receive comprehensive training on the subject. That said, it’s important for everyone to be able to recognize the warning signs of a choking infant, so we’re discussing the most common ones below.
The baby’s lips and/or skin turn blue.
One of the surest (and most shocking) signs of choking in infants is for the infant’s skin to take on a bluish hue. This blue tint can be very alarming to parents and caregivers. If this happens, you can be certain that something is keeping the baby from receiving adequate oxygen.
The baby can’t cry or make noise.
We’d like to think that someone who is choking would cry out for help, and that an infant would cry if they were unable to breathe. But the fact is, when the airway is blocked, it’s impossible to make noise. If your infant looks like he/she is crying, but is making no sound, choking could be to blame.
The baby can’t breathe, or has to make an effort to breathe.
If your baby isn’t breathing, or is gasping or wheezing heavily, they could very well be choking. If the baby is still able to cough, it’s possible that the airway isn’t completely blocked, and you should allow the baby to cough in an attempt to clear the airway (but you should still call for help).
The baby appears panicked or troubled, and may wave their arms.
If your infant begins flailing their arms or seems otherwise distressed or panicked, it could be a warning sign of choking, especially when combined with one of the other signs.
The infant loses consciousness or goes limp.
Another extremely troubling symptom of choking could be loss of consciousness. If the baby goes unconscious, it is likely necessary to perform infant CPR.
If you see any of these signs of choking, it’s easy to panic. However, it’s important to remain as calm as possible, so that you can perform choking relief procedures quickly and effectively.
To provide choking relief to infants:
- Make sure the baby is not coughing or crying. Assess the situation to make sure the baby is truly at risk for choking. If the baby has a strong cough or is crying, the airway is likely only partially blocked, and it will be easier for the baby to cough out the blockage. Anything you might do (including back blows) could actually make the situation worse. Do not administer choking relief if the baby is choking or crying.
- Do not try to remove the object with your fingers. Trying to pull an object out of the infant’s airway is more likely to make the situation worse.
- Call 911. If you are not sure how to help relieve your baby’s choking, call 911 immediately. They may be able to walk you through life-saving procedures, and will also send professional help your way.
- Administer back blows. Hold the infant face down on your forearm, with their head lower than their body. Hold their mouth open with your hand on that same arm. Using the heel of your free hand, give up to five quick blows to the infant’s back, right between the shoulder blades.
- Perform chest thrusts. If the back blows don’t dislodge the item, turn the baby over on its back, holding the infant in your lap. Make sure the head is supported. Place two fingers in the middle of the chest, and give five quick thrusts downward (about one-third of the depth of the chest).
- Repeat back blows and chest thrusts. Repeat these steps until the blockage is removed, help arrives, or the baby loses consciousness (in which case you would need to start performing CPR).
No parent or caregiver wants to think about the possibility of performing choking relief procedures or CPR on their infant, but accidents happen, and it’s always best to be prepared.
Register for our certification course for Infant CPR to learn more about the specifics of CPR and choking relief for infants. We hope you never have to use your training, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it.