How to prevent your kid from choking

Watching a child gasping for breath is one of the most frightening things imaginable. Knowing their pain is probably your doing is numbing.

Young children love to put things in their mouths. Every year more than 17,000 children are taken to the emergency room for choking related incidents. Eight out of ten of these are under four years old. Sadly, according to Science Daily, one child dies every five days because of choking on food.

In this blog we’ll look at the common items that cause choking and seven do’s and don’ts that will cut the risk of your child (or one in your care) from choking.

Why are children so at risk of choking?

We’ve all swallowed something that has gone ‘down the wrong direction’, but with children the danger is far more severe. Their throats are smaller, and their impulse reactions haven’t fully developed. The younger the child, the more at risk they are to choke. Not only because they haven’t yet learned what is safe to swallow, but also because they are so inquisitive. Give a baby a toy and it goes straight to their mouth.

Dangerous foods

The majority of choking incidents involve food. The most dangerous list includes some that you probably wouldn’t imagine could be fatal. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following as its top ten choking foods:

  • Hot dogs
  • Hard candy
  • Chewing gum
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Chunks of meat or cheese
  • Whole grapes
  • Popcorn
  • Chunks of peanut butter
  • Raw vegetables
  • Raisins

Dangerous objects

Dangerous objects are more easily recognized. Here are the top ten choking objects and toys:

  • Coins
  • Buttons
  • Marbles
  • Small balls
  • Deflated balloons
  • Watch batteries
  • Jewelry
  • Ballpoint pen caps and paper clips
  • Arts and crafts supplies
  • Small toys and toys with small detachable parts

Preventing children from choking – the seven do’s and don’ts

Whenever you give something to young children to eat, always stay with them and keep an eye on them. With this golden rule in mind, stick to these do’s and don’ts:

  1. Do cut all firm round foods into small pieces for children under four years old. Cut grapes into quarters, and slice hotdogs lengthways.
  2. Don’t let children run with food in their mouths. Don’t let them lie down either. Children should sit and eat, not eat and play.
  3. Don’t give toddlers any of the high-risk foods from the list above.
  4. Do keep small items, coins, pens and batteries away from children at all times. A locked cabinet is the best storage place.
  5. Do check if toys or toy parts are removable and too small.
  6. Do always read warning labels – know what you are handing to children in your charge.

And finally:

  1. Do learn the first aid for choking and CPR. You never know when you’ll need the skill to save a life.

As a parent, grandparent, or caregivers, it’s in your power to help get the number of choking incidents reduced. Wouldn’t it be great if together we could prevent many unnecessary deaths every year?

Kids Choking: not a gag, and certainly not funny

Watching a child gasping for breath is one of the most frightening things imaginable. Knowing their pain is probably your doing is numbing.

Every year more than 17,000 children are taken to the emergency room for choking related incidents. Eight out of ten of these are under four years old. Sadly, according to Science Daily, one child dies every five days because of choking on food

Gagging is often mistaken for choking, but, while they may be similar, choking is a symptom of possible life endangerment while gagging is a natural body reflex reaction. If you understand the difference between the two, you’ll always take the right action.

Is it gagging or choking?

Babies gag on milk (even when breastfed), and as they move to solids they will often gag, too. Gagging is a reflex action when an item of food or drink has ‘gone down the wrong way’ or simply been swallowed too fast.

In trying to expel the offending item, the tongue moves forward and coughing usually begins. There may be some redness in the face, and the mouth opens involuntarily. It looks a lot worse than it is, and can cause a little discomfort for a short period of time. (Try putting your fingers in your mouth and toward your throat and you’ll get the idea.)

Choking happens when something blocks the airway (the windpipe, or, to give it the proper name, trachea). When the trachea is partially blocked, a baby will begin to cough to try to clear it. Usually this solves the problem.

But, when the trachea becomes completely blocked, the redness in the face increases and then turns blue, and the mouth may open as the baby tries to breath. But there won’t be any noise at all. It is a silent reaction, and this is one of the most telling signs of choking.

How to treat choking

As soon as choking is observed, it is time to react. Use blows to the back (between the shoulder blades) and chest thrusts. With older children, you might find they are able to take a breath and cough. If this is the case, allow them to do so: it’s always better to allow the children to clear the obstruction themselves, if possible. Using a back blow while a child is breathing-in can cause the object to fall further into the trachea and make matters worse.

Whatever you do, if you are treating a young child for choking avoid the temptation to practice the Heimlich maneuvre as this could cause damage to internal organs.

Finally, if in doubt, shout! Objects can get stuck in the esophagus too (that’s the ‘wind pipe’). When this happens, breathing is still possible – as is talking – but the item may need to be removed at the hospital to prevent further complications and allow normal eating and drinking to resume.

Babies: the Pleasure and Pain

baby newborn sleeping on parents hands, kid and family concept No matter how many good parenting guides have been read, a new mother and father will always feel they have no idea about how to look after their recently delivered baby. Babies tend to cry, eat, and sleep. They are wonderful bundles of joy, but sometimes difficult to cope with in the early stages. Imagine if they could transfer all that noisy energy to walking and running: injuries would beckon at every step. For parents, bumps, scratches, cuts, bruises, and broken bones are rarely on the agenda with their babies, and amen to that! However, there are other medical concerns for all parents of their newly born child.

Babies and respiratory infection

A leading cause of admissions to hospitals of those under one-year-old is infection of the respiratory system. Babies can be exposed to infection in a number of ways.

Babies and SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, SIDS is devastating to parents and families. Also known as Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI), this can occur at any time, though most commonly when asleep. There is no rhyme or reason, nor enough compassion to give to the victims of SIDS. The Kids Safe Sleeping campaign does make six positive recommendations that seem to have helped prevent many SIDS cases:

  • The baby should sleep on its back from birth
  • The baby’s head and face should remain uncovered
  • Make the home a smoke free environment (including no smoking during pregnancy)
  • Ensure the sleeping environment is safe
  • The baby should sleep in the same room as an adult for the first six to twelve months of their life
  • Breastfeed

Know what to do for choking babies

Moving a baby from liquids to solids is a tough time, and many parents worry about the risk of choking and allergic reactions. As long as you know the signs and what to do, you’ll be fine.

In the end, you’ll have a terrific toddler

Bringing a baby into the world and looking after him or her for those first few months is the biggest responsibility anyone can take on. The dangers are reduced by making sure you are prepared, and realizing that most of what happens (for example a baby’s gagging) is natural. Be aware of things that happen which are out of the ordinary, and grow with your new baby. It’s a wonderful experience.

Finally, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a must have skill. If your baby has a life threatening condition, it will usually be the breathing that gives way before the heart. Make sure you’re prepared to give CPR by taking a CPR course.

5 of the Most Common Emergency Situations Involving Children and How to Respond

Falls and Choking are Common Injuries Suffered by Children. Do you know How to Respond?

  1. Falls are one the most common emergency situations paramedics see involving children.The effects of falls can range from bleeding and abrasions (which are usually easily managed by a parent with a first aid kit) to sprains/fractures and head injuries. Head injuries from a fall are most likely to be minor but it is crucial that parents learn to recognize when the injury is serious and may require emergency care.
  2. Choking is another common injury. It is often described as one of most scary things a parent may encounter! Being aware of the different types of choking and knowing how to respond can really be a matter of life and death. A choking event may be a complete obstruction where the child is silent as the airway is completely obstructed, or a partial obstruction with the child having difficulty breathing and hearing a wheeze. Appropriate treatment will depend on which type of choking but may include back blows and administering CPR.
  3. One of the most common ambulance jobs our Paramedics attend…are for Febrile Convulsions. Although many parents don’t know what they are or how to respond and often have a hard time staying calm to help resolve the emergency. It is important to call 911. Lay your child on the floor and loosen any tight clothing. Roll the child onto their side…once jerking has stopped or if the vomit. Never try to restrain a seizing child.
  4. Children are naturally curious. They learn by putting things into their mouths and touching things they shouldn’t. Among the most common injuries suffered by children are burns (caused by dry heat) and scalds (caused by hot liquids). Of course, prevention is better than a cure. So keep your children away from the kitchen when not supervised, away from hot water, and away from anywhere where hot surfaces or liquids may be within touching distance. In the event your child is burned, you must act quickly. Call 911, remove clothing, diapers or jewelry (unless it is stuck to the skin) cool the skin under cold running water.
  5. Recognizing respiratory distress early can have a huge impact on the final outcome, so knowing the signs are vital. Some signs and symptoms of breathing difficulties may include, wheezing sounds, pale/cool sweaty skin, hoarse barking cough, shortness of breath and sucking in of chest muscles, bluish color around the mouth and the child may have a fever. If your child is in respiratory distress you must call 911, keep upright and forward, provide “reliever” medication if available and if not breathing start CPR.

The most important thing for parents and caregivers to do is to equip themselves with the correct skills to use in an emergency situation involving their child. It is essential that parents try to remain calm and collected during the event and have the knowledge and skills to render the appropriate treatment. What happens immediately after an emergency can make all the difference!

Learn all of this and much more including how to administer CPR from a qualified professional in our 10 lesson online course at

Dealing with Accidental Amputations

Hands in gloves putting on a bandageAccidental amputation of limbs can happen at any time and any place, and young children’s delicate limbs are most at risk. Not only are young children’s bodies not fully formed, and therefore easier ‘to break’, but also little children don’t understand the dangers posed by obstacles such as doors and drawers.

In the UK, one case that hit international media headlines was that of little Sophie Dedek, who lost a fingertip. Staff didn’t even realize the finger had been severed until someone spotted it on the floor while cleaning. Sophie’s parents arrived to find their child’s hand wrapped in a blood soaked towel and the fingertip in a cup of ice.

Unfortunately, despite surgeons working for more than two hours to try to reattach the fingertip, Sophie is now left maimed for life. If the correct procedures had been followed, the outcome may have been entirely different.

Treating an amputated limb

The most common accidental amputation is a finger, but whatever the limb affected the treatment will be the same. There is likely to be a lot of blood, and bleeding is the first thing you must control:

  • Apply firm pressure to the finger with something dry and clean. If you have your first aid kit nearby, use some sterile gauze.
  • Raise the finger above the heart: this will help slow the flow of blood to the finger.
  • Call for an ambulance.
  • Inspect the finger to see if it is intact.

Preserving the severed limb

With the bleeding under control, the amputated piece of the finger will need to be properly preserved for the paramedics and proceeding surgical procedure. If the amputated finger part is dirty, rinse it under running water. Wrap it in damp, sterile gauze (or, use a paper towel) and seal it in a plastic bag to ensure the air doesn’t get to it.. Finally, place the sealed plastic bag on a bed of ice and water.

Avoid the common mistake

The most common mistake, and one of the accumulating mistakes made by Sophie’s nursery, is to place the severed finger directly into ice. This only causes more damage and reduces the possibility of reattachment.

Whatever you do, don’t separate the finger from the child. Make sure they stay together the whole journey to the hospital. Plastic surgeons have fantastic abilities to ‘do the impossible’ – but they can only do this if they have the equipment available to do so, and the most important piece of that equipment is the severed limb!

Don’t Let Your Child Become A Statistic – Accident-Proof Your Home

Toddler playing with household cleaners at homeWe all like to think that when we’re at home we’re in the safest place possible, but statistics just don’t back this up. According to data, 33% of all accidents occur in the home, and the home is the second most likely place that someone will suffer an accidental death.

We all know that accidents happen, but studies show that 6 out of every 10 preventable accidents happen in the home, with children most at risk.

Your home is a dangerous playground.

Children learn by play − a fact we tend to forget in the home. Every room is a playground that should have a hazard warning. Poisoning, falls from windows, cuts and drowning are all common accidents in the home.

And just when we think we’ve childproofed our home, they go and grow a little taller and grab things that were once safely out of reach. So childproofing your home is a constant challenge that has to be met.

Here are some things to do that will make your home as safe as it can be, especially for children who just want to play:

  • Be a constant supervisor – keep an eye on what your child is doing and on the new hazards they begin to encounter as they grow
  • Make sure all cabinet and drawers are protected by childproof locks
  • Keep windows locked, and pools safe with suitable fencing
  • Keep tools locked away, and unplug electrical tools and appliances when not in use
  • Cover all chains and springs with a cover and ensure that none are more than a few inches (so they can’t be wrapped around a baby’s neck).

Some of the easiest things to do are those that are most easily forgotten. Installing smoke alarms, replacing old electrical appliances, and making sure safety guards are across balconies and at the top and bottom of stairs are all common-sense actions of responsible parents.

Finally, always have a first aid kit in a handy place in the home, and post emergency numbers in convenient locations.

The Menace of Medicines in the Home

We tend to associate poisoning with snakes and spiders. But there’s something way more dangerous – and potentially deadly – lurking in the average household cabinet: Medicines. Children are most at risk from accidental poisoning in the home, and those under 5 are in the highest risk category.

How do you know if your child has been poisoned in the home?

Young children love exploring, and one of the ways that toddlers learn about their environment is by putting things in their mouths. If a child could (or would) tell you that he or she has swallowed something they shouldn’t have, it would make a parent or caregivers job a whole lot easier.

But they don’t, do they? So knowing a few of the telltale signs of poisoning is essential. These symptoms include:

  • Feeling sick or vomiting
  • Stomach pains, and possibly diarrhoea
  • Drowsiness or dizziness
  • General weakness
  • Shivering or sweating
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Rash (or perhaps burns around the mouth)
  • Seizures

That’s a long list of symptoms, and if you do suspect that your child has been poisoned by medicines you should try to establish which medicine is to blame and get medical help immediately.

Prevention is better than cure

Though little hands and inquiring minds mean almost nowhere is safe in the house, there are some precautions you should take with your medicines:

  • Keep all medicines in a locked cabinet out of the reach of children
  • Never take your pills and other medicines out of their containers, and make sure the lid is secured always
  • Keep bags out of children’s reach. This is especially important when you have visitors: a woman’s bag is a favorite place to keep medicine, and a target for toddlers
  • When visiting friends and relatives, keep an eye on your toddler at all times.

A Burning Problem Easily Solved

One of the most agonizing injuries that can be suffered is a burn. Most often, toddlers between the age of one and two are the most at risk. Scalding is the most common form of burn injury…including the bathtub.

How to eliminate the possibility of burns?
Unfortunately, try as you might, there is no way to completely eliminate the possibility of a burn. But you can reduce the risk massively:

  • Always keep your eye open for danger and make sure you supervise your child at all times
  • Reinforce the danger areas in your home by gently telling your child to stay away
  • Keep electrical wires and cables out of reach of children
  • Make the kitchen a no-go area when you’re cooking and never leave boiling pots and pans unattended
  • Don’t use electric blankets in children’s rooms and turn off any heaters at night (or keep them at a very low temperature)
  • In living rooms, install heater guards and make sure all toys and playpens are at least a foot or two away from heaters

Forget ‘don’t drink and drive’; don’t drink and cuddle!

Okay, we don’t really mean that you don’t need to worry about drinking and driving – of course, you should never mix the two. But the same can be said of drinking tea or coffee while you have a child in your arms or on your lap: don’t do it!

If you have an open fire (for example: candles, fireplace or gas burners), never let children go near them without supervision – and don’t take your eye off of them, not even for a second.

Similar precautions should be taken outdoors. The family barbecue – where there is likely to be burning coals, patio heaters, blow torches, gas lighters, and so on – is one of the most dangerous events for families. Always have a bucket of cold water on hand, supervise the children at all times, and know what to do should an accidental burn be suffered.

Avoid Bath Time Danger and Keep Your Child Safe

Baby bath with foam washes
Bath time is one of the happiest moments with a baby. A few minutes of fun and baby giggles, never mind the cuddles afterwards.

Unhappily, the bath is one of the most dangerous places for your baby, toddler, or young child. Every bath time brings two main dangers: drowning and scalding.

Before bath time

Rule one to make sure bath time is a happy time is to be prepared. Get the towel, face wash, soap and hair shampoo ready. Make sure that you have a clean diaper and a change of clothes on hand.

When you run the water, always run the cold water first and check the temperature.

During bath time

Never leave your child alone in the bath, and always stay close – no more than an arm’s length away.

There are plenty of distractions that could pull you away from where you should be − a knock at the door or the telephone ringing, for example. Ignore them all.

As a habit, a safe practice could be to turn your cell phone off before you take your child into the bathroom to avoid distractions.

After bath time

Once bath time is finished, let the water out. In fact, pull the plug out of the bath as soon as you lift your child from the water. It’s the only safe way. It’s easy to forget the water is still in the bath, and even the smallest of crawlers will be tempted back into the water while you’re not around.

One final thing…

Every year, an average of five children under the age of five will drown in the bath. Another 47 will spend time in the hospital because of a near-drowning in the bathtub. Hundreds more are scalded by bathwater that is too hot.

Taking the simple precautions above will ensure your baby or young child does not join these numbers.

And if – Heaven forbid – the worst should happen, make sure you know what emergency action to take for burns and scalding and for drowning.



Spotting and Treating an Allergic Reaction

Close up image of a little boy’s body suffering urticaria.Allergies are on the increase. Foods are the most common substances to which people are allergic, with nuts, eggs, and dairy products high on the list of allergens (substances which cause an allergic reaction).

In the most severe allergic reactions, your child could suffer breathing problems and the result could be fatal. So knowing the signs of an allergy – and how to treat a child suffering an allergic reaction – is a vital skill for a parent.

What is an allergy?

An allergic reaction occurs when a substance, which the body considers to be a foreign invader, enters the body. The body produces antibodies which battle against the invading substance, and various symptoms become visible very quickly. Commonly, such allergies are to food; but while the symptoms of an allergy and food intolerance to food may be similar, an allergic reaction happens almost immediately, is far more severe in nature, and has to be treated differently.

Signs of an allergic reaction

When the allergen and its antibody come into contact with each other, the body releases a number of other substances. One of these is histamine, and this causes inflammation. In turn, this inflammation causes a number of visible signs, which can appear seconds after coming into contact with, eating, or drinking, and or a substance to which the child is allergic. Typical allergic reactions include:

  • Swelling
  • Hives or a skin rash
  • Tingling of the lips and mouth
  • Stomach aches, vomiting, and diarrhoea

In the worst cases, the throat can close, the tongue swells, and breathing become severely affected, with the worst reaction leading to anaphylaxis.

What to do?

How you treat an allergic reaction depends upon its severity. However severe, it’s important to stay calm, reassure your child, and remove the offending food or sting. You should then call for help, and follow the DRSABC procedures we teach in our workshops, if you need to and should the symptoms become life-threatening (but remember, stay calm).

Where allergies are known to exist, it may be that a child has an EpiPen. Make sure you know how to administer (take a few seconds to read the instructions, for example), and always inject in the side of the thigh. There’s no need to remove clothing to do this, but the needle must stay inserted for ten seconds.

In your treatment of allergies and administering an adrenaline auto injector, always err on the side of caution: allergic reactions can be fatal, and it is always better to be safe than sorry.