Choking v’s Gagging - By Mini First Aid

AtMini First Aid we know that choking is a major concern for parents. In a recentMini First Aid survey, over 60% told us that choking is their number one fear. Buthow do you know when your little one is choking and not gagging? When do theyneed help from you? And would you know what to do if it was an emergency? MiniFirst Aid talk you through what you need to know . . .

    Have you heard of the gag reflex?

    We are all born with a gag reflex. Itmight sound dramatic when your little one is gagging, but it is totally naturaland automatic. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, have you everaccidentally breathed in when you were swallowing? That coughing andspluttering is your gag reflex and in babies it’s at its strongest. Gagging isa safety response and when you see your baby or child gagging, it’s becausethey’re actually solving the problem – they’re moving that piece of food awayfrom their windpipe.


    BUT . . a lot of us get confused, andoften mistake the signs of gagging for choking – it does sound prettyfrightening after all! These signs include coughing, spluttering, going red inthe face and making a lot of noise.


    Whilst gagging is very dramatic, chokingis for the most part silent. That’s why it’s so important not to leave littleones alone when they’re eating, because you will not hear them if they arechoking. You also wont see the signs of lips turning blue, which indicatesinsufficient blood flow to the lungs.


    The way we help parents remember thedifference between choking and gagging is:


    “Loud and red, let them go ahead.

    Silent and blue, they need help fromyou!”

    What choking hazards should I be aware of?


    ·       - Whole grapes

    ·       - Popcorn

    ·       - Cherry tomatoes

    ·       - Lollies and boiled sweets

    ·       - Hotdogs and sausages

    ·       - Marshmallows (both big and mini)


    So take particular care whenfeeding your child these foods and make sure they are chopped correctly –grapes, tomatoes and mini sausages should all be quartered length-wise to avoidchoking.

    How do I deal with a choking incident?

    It’s vital thatall parents and carers know how to deal with a baby or child who is choking.


    Choking child (aged 1 – puberty)


    ·       - Encouragechild to cough.

    ·       - 5back slaps between shoulder blades. Check if anything comes out & checkmouth.

    ·       - Upto 5 abdominal thrusts. Clenched fist between tummy and breastbone, with otherhand over the top. In & upwards motion. Check if anything   comes out. Ifnothing has come out, call 999.

    ·       - Cyclesof 5 back slaps & 5 abdominal thrusts.

    Choking Baby (aged 0-1)


    ·       - 5back slaps.

    ·       - Upto 5 chest thrusts (jabbing motion). Check if anything comes out. If nothinghas come out, call 999.

    ·       - Cyclesof 5 back slaps & 5 chest thrusts.

    - Youmust always refer to hospital any child or baby who has been choking and whereabdominal manoeuvres have been used. 

    Where can I learn these techniques?

    If you’d like to see thesetechniques being demonstrated, and have a chance to practice them for yourself,why not book on to ouraward-winning 2 hour Baby and Child first aid class. We cover choking v’s gagging, as wellas bumps, breaks, burns, CPR and more.


    Our Mini First Aid book “Sit,Chop, Chew” promotes the basic principles of safe eating to families to reducethe fear of choking and the number of choking incidents themselves. Perfect forreading together and putting into practice round the dinner table! You can buy your copyhere.


    Wehope this has helped give you a bit more confidence in knowing the differencebetween gagging and choking, and what to do should an emergency occur. Whilstwe hope you will never need it, we always say at Mini First Aid “it is betterto know it and not need it, than to need it and not know it.”


    Allthe best

    MiniFirst Aid x

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