Choking is when someone cannot breathe because food, a toy, or other object is blocking the throat or windpipe (airway).
This article discusses choking in infants.
Choking in infants is usually caused by breathing in a small object that the baby has placed in their mouth, such as a button, coin, balloon, toy part, or watch battery.
Choking may result from a complete or partial blockage of the airway.
When a person does not get enough air, permanent brain damage can occur in as little as 4 minutes. Rapid first aid for choking can save a life.
The danger signs of choking are:
DO NOT perform these steps if the infant is coughing hard or has a strong cry. Strong coughs and cries can help push the object out of the airway.
If your child is not coughing forcefully or does not have a strong cry, follow these steps:
If the object does not come out of the airway after 5 blows:
IF THE INFANT LOSES ALERTNESS
If the child becomes unresponsive, stops breathing, or turns blue:
If an infant is choking:
Always call your doctor after a child has been choking, even if you successfully remove the object from the airway and the infant seems fine.
To prevent choking in an infant:
Duff JP, Topjian AA, Berg MD, et al. 2019 American Heart Association focused update on pediatric basic life support: an update to the American Heart Association guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency cardiovascular care. Pediatrics. 2020;145(1):e20191358. PMID: 31727861 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31727861/.
Goodloe JM, Soulek J. Foreign bodies. In: Walls RM, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 51.
Rose E. Pediatric upper airway obstruction and infections. In: Walls RM, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 162.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 1/2/2023
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, CPE, FAAEM, FACEP, Attending Physician at Kaiser Permanente, Orange County, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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