How to stop a child or infant from choking

Date: Monday, 19 October 2015. -  
Blog, First Aid, Paediatric

According to a study published by the American Academy of Paediatrics, choking is the leading cause of death in children under four years old. At Imperative Training we are passionate about supplying people with the skills to save lives; therefore, we have compiled a step-by-step guide of the vital steps you must take if an infant or child is choking.  

Last week two-year-old Jacob Jenkins lost his life after choking on a grape at Pizza Hut. Unfortunately, it’s hard to prevent heartbreaking incidents such as this from happening because infants are very curious about the world around them. They learn by copying adults which can often result in disaster when they reach for coffee cups or try food they shouldn’t. “You’ve got to be vigilant all the time,” said Joanne Thompson who set up the charity Millie’s Trust in memory of her nine-month-old daughter who choked to death. “Things like this happen, they’re accidents and it doesn’t matter how much effort you put into making sure your children are safe, unfortunately just like Jacob, this was a completely tragic accident.”    


As a parent or carer, it’s important to know aspects of paediatric first aid. Small children do not realise the extent of damage they can do if they tip over a boiling cup of tea and they may not have the instinct to cough when food is lodged in their throat. Learning paediatric first aid will give you the confidence to act quickly and calmly in an emergency.

To get you started, please read these important steps on how to stop an infant or a child from choking:


  1. Encourage them to cough
  2. If a hearty cough hasn’t cleared the blockage, ask them to bend forwards and support their weight by placing your arm across their collar bone, standing behind the casualty- administer five back blows between their shoulder blades. Check if the obstruction has been cleared between each blow.
  3. If this doesn’t work, give the casualty abdominal thrusts. Standing behind them place one hand between the bottom of their breastbone and their belly button, make a fist and then place your other hand on top of your fist. Pull sharply inwards and upwards 5 times, checking if the object has cleared between each thrust.
  4. Repeat the second and third point up to three times. If the object still hasn’t cleared, call an ambulance.

** If the casualty becomes unconscious begin CPR immediately and call 999**


  1. Lay the baby face down across your forearm so that their head is lower than their chest. With the heel of your hand give 5 back blows, checking their mouth for the blockage between each blow.
  2. If the obstruction hasn’t been removed, lay the baby onto their back and place two fingers on the breastbone. Thrust sharply, inwards and upwards towards the baby’s head. Repeat this step up to 5 times, checking for the obstruction after each chest thrust.
  3. If this process still doesn’t work, call an ambulance.

**If the baby becomes unconscious, start CPR immediately and call 999**

For more useful pointers visit our first aid tips page on our website. You can also download our first aid app, free of charge. Simply search for imperative training in your app store, for helpful step-by-step guides when you’re on the go.

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