It’s every parent or teacher’s worst nightmare, but it’s a frequent occurrence among children who eat with gusto, talk while chewing, and otherwise go about their lives with a little less caution than most! What are we talking about? That’s right: choking.
Luckily, medical education specialists ProTrainings are supporting adults everywhere in sharing their expert advice for how to stay cool in a crisis. Specifically, the crisis of spotting a child who is choking. Equipped with the knowledge of how to help safely, this needn’t be a crisis after all.
You might just be able to save the day.
Of course, the first thing you may notice if a child begins to choke is a look of panic on their face. They want to get help but cannot ask for it, they don’t know what to do, and they are getting scared, anxious, and wide-eyed.
If you are confronted with a choking child, the cause is most likely a “foreign body airway obstruction,” the instructional video advises. A lot of times it happens while the child is laughing (kids, as we know, will laugh emphatically at all manner of things), or they might be rushing their food.
Signs of choking include gagging and trying to cough but not being able to. Watch out for color changes in the skin, in particular a blue color around the lips.
You will, of course, ask the child whether they are alright. It’s just as important that you stay “alright” yourself (take a little creative license here. Even if you are terrified, pretend that you are not, for the sake of the child!). If the child doesn’t respond to questioning, it’s time for a hands-on approach.
If, however, the child has started to cough on their own already, they are likely making their own attempts to dislodge the foreign body, and you should help them with a gentle but firm and consistent pat on the back.
If the child is not coughing, summon your bravery and know that you are about to exercise a simple technique that could prevent the child from losing consciousness. Proceed carefully. The demo explains: “Lower yourself to the level of the child, kneeling behind her. With her hands around her neck, raise her elbows and find her belly button.”
“With the left thumb tucked in,” the video continues, “you’ll put your left fist against her tummy, just above the belly button.”
Next, “grab your left fist with your right hand.” This position, if you have knelt down to the same height as the child, envelops her in a sort of awkward “hug,” and prevents you from putting any painful pressure on the ribs that may result in accidental fractures.
“With inward and upward thrusts,” continue the step-by-step instructions, “start your inward and upward compressions. Do this until you get the object clear.”
If the child faints, the video reassures, you must assist the child down to the floor, “so that you don’t incur any more traumatic injuries.” There is an additional protocol for “unconscious choking” posted elsewhere, but all being well, the foreign body should be well and truly dislodged by now.
Color will return to the child’s face, normal breathing will resume, and you can get on with the altogether much less terrifying task of comforting the child after their small ordeal.
Well done. Panic over!
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Author: Louise Bevan