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Choking In The Unconscious Child

Choking In The Unconscious Child

Alternate Names

  • Heimlich maneuver in the unconscious child
  • Lungs and bronchial tree


Choking in an unconscious child may occur when the upper airway, usually the throat or windpipe, is blocked by an object or irritation. A child for the purposes of this article is 1 to 8 years old.


What are the causes and risks of the injury?

Choking is usually caused by objects that the child has placed in his or her mouth. These include toys, candy, popcorn, hot dogs, nuts, batteries, rocks, and buttons. Things that wrap around the neck and constrict it, such as strings or rope, can also cause choking.


What can be done to prevent the injury?

Some cases of choking can be avoided by:
  • giving young children only age-appropriate toys
  • avoiding toys that break easily, have small parts, or have batteries
  • keeping foods such as popcorn, hot dogs, nuts, and seeds away from very small children
  • cutting pieces of food for small children, especially grapes and wieners, into small enough pieces to prevent their lodging in the throat
  • keeping buttons, watch batteries, coins, rocks, and any other small household items away from little children
  • keeping strings and ropes away from small children. Never tie a pacifier with string to a child's clothing. The string could get wrapped around the child's neck.


How is the injury diagnosed?

A child who is unconscious due to choking will be unresponsive. The rescuer will be unable to push air into the lungs with mouth-to-mouth breathing. Bystanders may report an episode of choking, followed by unconsciousness.


What are the treatments for the injury?

First aid for an unconscious child who has choked includes:
  • checking for signs of circulation, such as normal breathing, coughing, or movement in response to stimulation
  • contacting the emergency medical system immediately
  • opening the child's mouth by grasping the tongue and lower jaw between your thumb and fingers and lifting. Only if you see the object should you gently sweep your index finger in a hooking motion deeply into the child's mouth to remove it.
  • starting cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, if the child has no signs of circulation. Use 5 chest compressions for every 1 mouth-to-mouth rescue breath.
  • placing the child in a side-lying position if he or she starts breathing and monitoring closely
  • staying with the child until medical help arrives

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

The chest compressions of CPR can cause vomiting, injuries to internal organs, or broken ribs. Vomiting can be a problem if the vomit is caught in the airway and inhaled into the lungs. None of the procedures may work, and the child may still choke, remain unconscious, or possibly die.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the injury?

Anytime a child chokes, medical attention should be sought since the object may have been inhaled into the lung. This can cause wheezing, persistent cough, or pneumonia.

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