Recently I read an article in a newspaper titled “Her eyes wide with fear, my child was choking to death – and I didn’t know what to do”. It detailed how an 18month old who choked on a whole grape, and having been without oxygen to his brain for 3 mins before the ambulance arrived, suffered significant and long term brain damage.
It reminded of the time my then 2 yr old son choked on a piece of pear. I tried the sharp pat on the back, putting him over my knee and thumping his back and even turning him upside down but it wasn’t until his Grandpa depressed the back of his tongue with a teaspoon that it stimulated the gagging reflex which was sufficient to bring the piece of pear back up. It is probably the most frightening thing that I have ever experienced during the 12 years I’ve been a parent.
Choking is the third most common cause of infant death in the UK, after road traffic accidents and house fires — killing an average of 24 under-fives a year in England and Wales – and then there are the children, as in the news article I read, that are left with brain damage.
Half the population doesn’t know what to do if someone chokes. This is more worrying when you realize that when it does happen, you must act quickly — you have three to four minutes before death can occur.
Isobel Kearl, first aid development officer at St John’s Ambulance, says: ‘The majority of people either don’t know what to do or use the wrong techniques. Our research has shown that if someone was choking, only half would intervene with back blows — the correct procedure. Worryingly one in ten would stick their fingers down his or her throat, which could push the obstruction further down. It’s really important that everyone learns first aid so that they have the knowledge to deal with an emergency situation.’
Prevention is obviously the key here with the following being a short list of, frankly, the obvious –
For the Under 3’s
- Chop all small, hard (remembering fruit skins can be tough on little teeth) food into small bits and by small I mean a grape should be cut into quarters. Why not grate carrot, cheese, apple etc…?
- Always supervise your child when they are eating. You can’t stop them swallowing but you can encourage them to chew and you will be right there should anything happen.
- Be on high alert for any tiny toy bits, especially if you have an older child. Bits of Lego, broken off pieces of crayon, the magnetic balls from Knex – all soooo tempting for an inquisitive toddler.
For the pre-schoolers
- With a full set of teeth your pre-schooler can handle harder foods but their ‘danger’ foods are sweets – e.g. Haribos or sucking sweets such as butterscotch or Chocolate Éclairs. My advice is to just give them half at a time as the very act of sucking pulls the sweet to the back of the throat.
- Again supervision whilst eating as laughing at the hilarious antics of an older sibling can easily cause food to go ‘down the wrong way’ (lots of examples of this in my house) and make sure they are sitting whilst eating rather than roaming around!
If the very worst should occur then the advice that St. John’s ambulance give is very clear and comprehensive so please click through on the link
So prevention is the number one priority but if things do go wrong please don’t be the parent who doesn’t know what to do, who didn’t go on the First Aid course or hasn’t read up on it as it really could cost a life x