October 23, 2021

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What to do if you child is choking and the key items you need in your home first aid kit

A first aid expert has given her top tips to help parents deal with a choking incident at home.

Vicki Campbell, a former engineering teacher, set up Keep a Beat First Aid NI with friend Deniece O’Hagan-Hegarty following her maternity leave.

The pair now deliver first aid courses for parents across the country, but have been doing them virtually throughout the pandemic.

Speaking on Be’s parenting podcast Is This Normal?, the mum-of-three said the main worry that brings parents to the KeepaBeat NI first aid course is choking, Vicki said it was a huge fear for parents.

When it came to how to spot the difference between choking and gagging, she said: “We have a little rhyme to help you remember. when our babies gag they go red in the face because of the effort they are exerting as they gag and it will come with noise, it’s a horrible noise but it normally comes with this retching noise. So if they are loud and red you let them go ahead.

“In other words we do nothing, we are with our children, we are supervising our children, we do not leave them alone while they are eating, they are strapped into a highchair, we are with them but we do not do anything when they are gagging. If that means you have to strap yourself to a chair that’s what you have to do. I know it is hard, I have been there and done that but we must let them go ahead, it is all part of the natural weaning process.”

When it comes to spotting when a child is choking, she said: “We have two different types of choke, we have a partial blockage choke and a full blockage choke. The partial blockage choke means that there is some air still getting into the baby or child’s airway so they will still be able to draw breathe which means the brain will remain in fight mode. When our brain is in fight mode our body will actively cough and try and clear that blockage itself. Again they will be red in the face from the effort, there will be plenty of noise because they are coughing loads.”

She added: “They are loud, they are red so you let them go ahead, they will bring that blockage forward themselves.”

The other side is the full blockage choke when no air at all can get into the airway.

“Whenever the child can not draw breathe, the brain will go into flight mode and all the body will do at that moment is open its mouth as wide as it can go,” she said.

“Very quickly their nice little pink face will go pale and they may start to go blue around the lip and the reason for that is baby’s oxygen levels, they can’t retain them in the same way as we do as adults.

“So this is the one time we step into action. If they are loud and red, you let them go ahead. If they are quiet and blue, they need help from you.”

Vicki said get them out of the highchair and support their two cheekbones using your finger and thumb, put them in a downward position at about 45 degrees, not totally upside down but supporting them in a downward angle.

“Then you are going to deliver five back blows using the heel of your hand and you are going to deliver those back blows directly between the shoulder blades,” she said.

“And just before you begin those back blows you may want to take a look into their mouth to see if the blockage can be seen, again if it can be do not go in with your fingers as you could push it on down in, but if you can see it that’s a good sign as it means it is ready to come out, it just needs a little bit of help.”

Vicki added that is the five back blows do not work, you are flipping them over and supporting the back of their head, holding them in a 45 degree downwards angle and deliver five chest thrusts.

“Two fingers right into the middle of the chest, it is a very vigorous inwards and upwards movement and you will be able to see if the blockage comes out in that position.”

Once a child reaches a year, there is a change to the sequence and they move from chest thrusts to abdominal thrusts.

“We make a fist and the position is just below the sternum and above the belly button, so they become abdominal thrusts beyond one year,” added Vicki.

You can listen to the full episode with Vicki – in which she covers dealing with bumps, burns and accidents at home – on Spotify, Google Podcasts, ApplePodcasts and Deezer.

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