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Choking in Children

Call 911 if the child is:

  • Unconscious
  • Not able to breathe because something is blocking the airway or has caused it to close off
  • Wheezing or gasping
  • Not able to cry, talk, or make noise
  • Turning blue in the face
  • Grabbing at the throat
  • Looking panicked

Young children are prone to choking. If the child is coughing and gagging but can breathe and talk, don't do anything. But if he can't breathe, you must act quickly to stop a life-threatening situation.

While Waiting for 911

If the Child Is Unconscious:

1. Start CPR

  • Move the child to the floor and start CPR. Take the object out of his mouth only if you can see it.

For a Child Younger Than 1 Year Who Is Conscious but Not Breathing:

1. Get the Child Into Position

  • Hold the child face down on your forearm, supported by your thigh.
  • Keep the child's torso higher than the head.

2. Give Forceful Blows

  • Use the heel of your free hand to thump the child in between the shoulder blades up to five times.

3. Turn the Child Over

  • Turn the child face up, and keep supporting the head and neck. If the object is not out yet, go to step 4.

4. Press the Chest

  • Place the child on a firm surface, which may still be your forearm.
  • Put two or three fingers in the center of the child's breastbone and push quickly up to five times.
  • Repeat the back thumping and chest pushes until the object comes out or the child loses consciousness.
  • If the child is still not breathing, open the airway by putting your thumb in the child's mouth and grasping the lower incisors or gums. The jaw should lift up so you can look for the object.
  • Do not try to pull the object out unless you see it clearly. You could accidentally push the object deeper in the child's throat.

5. Start CPR, If Needed

  • If the child loses consciousness, perform CPR and take the object out of his mouth only if you can see it. Never do a finger sweep unless you can see the object in the child's mouth.

For a Child Older Than 1 Year Who Is Conscious:

1. Get the Child Into Position

  • Stand behind the child and wrap your arms around his waist.
  • Place a fist just above the child's belly button.

2. Try to Dislodge the Object

  • Hold the fist with your free hand and quickly push in and up.
  • Repeat until the object comes out or the child loses consciousness.

3. Start CPR, If Needed

  • If the child loses consciousness, move the child to the floor and start CPR. Take the object out of his mouth only if you can see it. Never do a finger sweep unless you can see the object in the child's mouth.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on September 16, 2013

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