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Choking In The Unconscious Infant

Choking In The Unconscious Infant

  • Upper airway


Choking in an unconscious infant may occur when the upper airway, usually the throat or windpipe, is blocked by an object or irritation. An infant is a child under 1 year of age.


What are the causes and risks of the injury?

Choking is usually caused by objects that the infant 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 infants only age-appropriate toys
  • avoiding toys that break easily, have small parts, or have batteries
  • keeping foods such as popcorn, hot dogs, nuts, hard candy and seeds away from infants
  • keeping buttons, watch batteries, coins, rocks, and any other small household items away from infants
  • keeping strings and ropes away from infants. Never tie a pacifier with string to a baby's clothing. The string could get wrapped around the baby's neck.


How is the injury diagnosed?

An infant 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 infant who has choked includes:
  • checking for signs of circulation, such as normal breathing, coughing, or movement in response to stimulation
  • Start cardiopulmonay resuscitation, or CPR, if the infant is not breathing or you cannot feel a pulse
  • Remember "Call, Blow, Pump":
    • check the infant for unresponsiveness. If there is no response, Call or have someone call 911 and return to the infant
    • in most locations the emergency deispatcher can assist you with CPR instructions
    • open the infant'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 infant's mouth to remove it.
    • tilt the head back and listen for breathing. If not breathing normally cover the infant's mouth and nose with your mouth
    • blow until you see the chest rise. Give 2 breaths. Each breath should take 1 second.
    • If the infant is still not breathing normally, coughing or moving, begin chest compressions. Push down on the chest using your pointer and middle finger. Use 5 chest compressions for every 1 mouth-to-mouth rescue breath.
    • place the infant in a side-lying position if he or she starts breathing and monitor closely
    • stay with the infant until medical help arrives
    • do not let the infant eat or drink anything

    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 infant may still choke, remain unconscious, or possibly die.

    After Treatment

    What happens after treatment for the injury?

    Anytime an infant chokes, medical attention should be sought, even if the object has been dislodged and the infant is breathing normally. A piece of the object, or another one, may have been inhaled into the lung. This can cause wheezing, persistent cough, or pneumonia.

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