How to save your child’s life

Before I begin, if your child is in an emergency situation, call 999/911 immediately.

I don’t know about you, but my worst nightmare is to realise that my daughter is choking. Thankfully so far we haven’t experienced it, but I’m definitely on my guard. All. The. Time. In the last 16 months, I’ve spoken to our GP, paediatrician, Health Visitor and several nurses about what I should do if she starts to choke.

Here’s the lo-down on choking, and how to resuscitate a child.

What to do if your child is choking

  1. If you can see the object in the child’s mouth and you can safely remove it without pushing it back into the airway, you should remove it with your fingertips.
  2. If your child is coughing loudly, encourage them to continue to do so and do not leave them alone.
  3. If the coughing makes no sound or they cannot breathe in properly, shout for help
  4. If your child is not coughing or coughing ineffectively, use back blows.

If, during the following procedure your child becomes unconscious, place them on a hard surface, shout for help, call 999/911, and start CPR.

Children over 1 year

  1. Give up to 5 back blows between the shoulder blades to try and dislodge the object. The force depends on the size of the child, and you should take your own strength into consideration, but the blows do need to be forceful enough to dislodge the blockage.
  2. If this has not worked, deliver up to 5 abdominal thrusts. Place your arms around your child from behind, with your arms under their arms. place one clenched fist above the navel and below the ribs. Grip this hand with your other hand. Pull towards you and upwards sharply. Be careful not to put pressure on the ribs.
  3. Call 999 if the blockage has not dislodged. Continue with the cycle of back blows and abdominal thrusts until the blockage is cleared, or help arrives.
  4. Even if the blockage is cleared, your child should still be evaluated by a medical professional, as it could have caused unseen damage.

Children under 1 year

  1. Give up to 5 back blows. Hold baby face down on your thigh, with their head lower than their bottom. Hit firmly between the shoulder blades up to 5 times.
  2. Deliver up to 5 chest thrusts. Using two fingers, push downwards in the middle of the chest just below the nipples.
  3. Call 999 if the blockage has not dislodged.

How to perform CPR on a child

  1. Check for normal breathing. Place your fingers under the chin and tilt the head back. Place your ear close above their mouth, and look down at their chest. If they are breathing, you will feel the breath on your ear or see the chest rise. Gasps do not count as normal breathing.
  2. If you haven’t already called for emergency services, do so now.
  3. If your child is breathing, put them in the recovery position and monitor closely.
  4. If your child is not breathing and is unresponsive, it’s time to deliver 5 rescue breaths. If your baby is under 1 year, cover their nose and mouth with your mouth. If you are unable to cover both, cover the mouth and close the nose with your fingers. If your child is over 1 year old, cover the mouth with yours, and seal their nose with your fingers.
  5. Blow steadily into the mouth and/or nose over one second. You should see the chest rise. While the head is tilted back, remove your mouth and watch as the chest falls. Repeat this four more times.
  6. In this case of choking, the airway is most likely obstructed. You should try 5 times to make the chest visibly rise. If you’re unable to, start chest compressions and return to rescue breaths.
  7. Give 30 chest compressions. This keeps the heart beating blood around the body, which keeps the brain and vital organs alive.
  8. Give two rescue breaths.
  9. Continue this cycle until help arrives, there are signs of life, or you can no longer physically continue.

Chest compression information

  • Fingers/hands should be placed one fingers width above where the bottom ribs join. This is the breastbone.
  • The chest should be compressed at a rate of 100-120 beats per minute. You might find it easier to remember by singing ‘Stayin’ Alive’ by the BeeGees – just make sure that your compressions are deep enough.

Chest compressions for a child under 1

  • Compressions should be performed with the heel of 1 hand, to a depth of 5cm. Do not apply pressure across the ribs – lift your fingers and solely use the heel of the hand.
  • Keep your arms straight. You may find it easier to use two hands with fingers interlocked.

Chest compressions for a child over 1

  • Compressions should be performed with two fingers to a depth of 4cm.

With any luck, you’ll never have to perform CPR on your child, or to help them when they’re choking, but unfortunately it happens all the time. In our household, we believe it’s better to be prepared than stunned when it happens. In the spirit of that sentiment, here’s a nifty trick I learnt recently.

If your little one is struggling to breathe because they’ve put lego/something else thats tiny up their nose, here’s what you should do. Pinch the other nostril shut, and blow really hard and sharply into their mouth. The lego should fly right out!

And that’s it! Did you know how to give CPR? Do you have experience giving CPR or are you a total CPR novice? Let us know!

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Paige Piper

Mum, musician, artist, professional sick kid.

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