The malteser incident: what to do if your child is choking

This week I had a terrible experience. Joseph was tucking into a cupcake which happened to have two maltesers on top. I had cut it into 4 pieces but left two with the maltesers on top (without thinking- he has eaten maltesers lots of times without an issue). In his haste to eat the tasty cake he shoved a whole piece in with the chocolate sphere on the top into his mouth and before I could do anything he winced and must have sucked the malteser in to his windpipe.

He looked at me in panic and I knew straight away he wasn’t breathing- he made no noise and wasn’t crying just staring at me with fear in his eyes. I tried to get him to spit the cake out but he couldn’t so I got down on the floor put him over my knee and smacked him on the back firmly and repetitively for what seemed like hours. Eventually the little chocolate ball flew out and he sucked in a big gasp of air. I checked that he’d spat it all out then I just took him in my arms and rocked him while he cried and got his breath back. That’s when the shock hit me and I burst into tears too- the whole episode probably lasted less than a minute but it seemed like forever.

Then Joe asked if he could finish his cake.

kids eh?!

Luckily Rob came home from work a few minutes later and could console us both. He must have wondered what on earth had gone on- we were both crying heaps on the floor, there was chocolate cake sprayed all over the carpet- what a welcome home!

All that kept running through my mind during the incident was “what do i do of I can’t get it out? I need to get it out! I’m on my own, there’s no one here to help me! I need to get it out!!”

SO I obviously don’t want anyone to ever have that experience, but I wanted to share with you the steps you need to take if your child is choking- you really never know when you might need it! This is the advice given by the NHS website:

  • If you can see the object, try to remove it. Don’t poke blindly or repeatedly with your fingers. You could make things worse by pushing the object further in and making it harder to remove.
  • If your child is coughing loudly, there’s no need to do anything. Encourage them to carry on coughing and don’t leave them.
  • If your child’s coughing is not effective (it’s silent or they can’t breathe in properly), shout for help immediately and decide whether they’re still conscious.
  • If your child is still conscious, but they’re either not coughing or their coughing is not effective, use back blows (see below).

Back blows for babies under one year

  • Sit down and lay your baby face down along your thighs, supporting their head with your hand.
  • Give up to five sharp back blows with the heel of one hand in the middle of the back between the shoulder blades.

Back blows for children over one year

  • Lay a small child face down on your lap as you would a baby.
  • If this isn’t possible, support your child in a forward-leaning position and give five back blows from behind.

If back blows don’t relieve the choking and your baby or child is still conscious, give chest thrusts (see below) to infants under one year or abdominal thrusts (see below) to children over one year. This will create an artificial cough, increasing pressure in the chest and helping to dislodge the object.

Chest thrusts for children under one year

  • Lay your baby face up along the length of your thighs.
  • Find the breastbone, and place two fingers in the middle.
  • Give five sharp chest thrusts (pushes), compressing the chest by about a third.

Abdominal thrusts for children over one year

  • Stand or kneel behind your child. Place your arms under the child’s arms and around their upper abdomen.
  • Clench your fist and place it between the navel and ribs.
  • Grasp this hand with your other hand and pull sharply inwards and upwards.
  • Repeat up to five times.
  • Make sure you don’t apply pressure to the lower ribcage, as this may cause damage.

Following chest or abdominal thrusts, reassess your child as follows

  • If the object is still not dislodged and your child is still conscious, continue the sequence of back blows and either chest or abdominal thrusts.
  • Call out or send for help, if you’re still on your own.
  • Don’t leave the child.

Even if the object has come out, get medical help. Part of the object might have been left behind, or your child might have been hurt by the procedure.

Unconscious child with choking

  • If a choking child is, or becomes, unconscious, put them on a firm, flat surface and shout for help.
  • Call 999, putting the phone on speakerphone so your hands are free.
  • Don’t leave the child at any stage.
  • Open the child’s mouth. If the object is clearly visible and you can grasp it easily, then remove it.
  • Start CPR (see How to resuscitate a child).

Scary information- but necessary knowledge!


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