Heimlich Maneuver on Choking Children

Act Fast: Perform the Heimlich Maneuver on Choking Children

It’s normal for children or babies to cough when something (usually food) is caught in their throat. However, if coughing doesn’t expel the object stuck in the child’s throat, it can lead to choking. Choking can block a child’s airways and make it difficult to breathe. In extreme cases, it can lead to death. In fact, choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional, preventable death.

If you see a child or baby gasping or having difficulty breathing, it’s time to perform the Heimlich maneuver on them. This technique involves thrusting the abdomen upwards so the lungs can force enough air to push out the blockage. Before performing the Heimlich maneuver on a child, ensure they are actually choking. If they can still cough forcefully or talk, leave them be. A choking child will gag or make a high-pitched sound. For babies under 1 year old, choking danger signs include bluish skin color, difficulty breathing and the inability to make a sound or cry.

Ask someone to call 911 before you perform the Heimlich maneuver. That person should also be the one to inform 911 of the progress of the Heimlich. This also helps ensure a rescue team is on the way if the Heimlich doesn’t remove the obstruction.

How Do You Perform the Heimlich Maneuver on a Child (Ages 1 to 8 Years Old)?

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1. Wrap your arms around the child’s waist from behind them.

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2. Put your fist above the child’s navel. The thumb of that hand should rest below the child’s rib cage.
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3. Grab the first fist with your other hand, which you will use to thrust forcibly inward and upward simultaneously into the child’s abdomen.

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4. Repeat this motion until the blockage in the throat comes out.

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5. Once the blockage clears, take the child to a doctor. A piece of that object may still be stuck in the lung. Only a doctor can fully assess if the child is OK.


How Do You Help a Choking Baby (Less Than 1 Year Old)?

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1. Position the baby face down on your forearm, which should rest on your thigh. In this position, the baby’s head is lower than its bottom body part.

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2. Back blows: Use the heel of your hand to deliver a quick, forceful blow between the baby’s shoulder blades. Do this up to five times or until the blockage comes out. 
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3. If back blows don’t work, turn the baby over while supporting its head.
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4. Chest thrust: Place two fingers in the center of the baby’s chest and press down forcefully up to five times or until the object is expelled. 
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5. Repeat the sequence of back blows and chest thrusts until the blockage clears. Never attempt to pull out the object from the baby’s mouth, as there is a risk that you might push the blockage further in. 

The Heimlich maneuver is generally a safe and quick technique to save a life. It’s an effective way to expel an object from the throat that won’t get out through coughing alone and you don’t need any medical training or knowledge to do the maneuver. It’s recommended to bring your child or baby to the doctor to ensure they’re all right.


National Safety Council Injury Facts
Red Cross
CPR Certification Institute

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