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Choking Infant (Younger than 1 year old)

Choking is when food or an object gets stuck in the airway or the throat and stops air from getting to the lungs. Choking can be mild or severe. 

Mild choking: The infant can make sounds and can cough loudly. You should: 

  • Stay close by and let him cough. 
  • Phone 9-1-1 if you are concerned about his breathing. 

Severe choking: The infant cannot breathe or cannot make a sound. His cough makes no sound. You should: 

  • Act quickly to get the object out of the infant’s airway so he can breathe. 

Stops responding: The infant does not move, or make sounds when you tap him or shout. 

How to help an infant with severe choking: 

1. Place the infant facedown on your forearm. Use your hand to support the infant’s head and jaw. 

2. Give up to 5 back slaps between the infant’s shoulder blades with the heel of your other hand. 

3. If the object does not come out after 5 back slaps, turn the infant onto his back. Support his head and neck as you turn him face up on your forearm. 

4. Give up to 5 chest thrusts with 2 fingers of your other hand. 

  • Push on the chest in the same place you push for CPR. 

5. Repeat giving 5 back slaps and 5 chest thrusts until the infant can breathe, cough or cry or until he stops responding. 

How to help a choking infant who stops responding: 

1. Place the infant on a firm, flat surface above the ground.

2. Yell for help. If someone comes, tell him to call 9-1-1 first and to get an AED. 

3. Check for breathing. 

4. No breathing? No response? START CPR. 1 set of CPR = 30 chest pushes and 2 breaths. 

5. Push on the chest 30 times. • After 30 pushes, open the airway and check his mouth. If the object is seen, take it out. 

6. Give 2 breaths. 

  • If the object is still blocking the airway, the chest will not rise. Continue CPR. Check the mouth each time before you give breaths. Pushes or breaths may dislodge the object.
  • If the object is displaced or removed, continue with sets of 30 chest pushes and 2 breaths without pausing to check the mouth. 

Phone 9-1-1 and use an AED

1. After 5 sets of CPR, stop and phone 9-1-1 if no one has called. 

2. If an AED is close by, turn it on and follow the prompts. 

3. Give sets of 30 pushes and 2 breaths until the infant responds or someone with advanced training takes over. 

Note: If back slaps and chests thrusts are needed to relieve choking, the infant should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible. 

What can I do to prevent my infant from choking? 

1. Serve food that is appropriate for your infant’s age. Infants and young children should not eat the following foods which may cause them to choke: 

  • hot dogs
  • popcorn 
  • nuts or seeds 
  • hard or raw fruits and vegetables 
  • round candies
  • grapes 
  • spoonfuls of peanut butter 
  • plain peanut butter sandwiches (adding jam or jelly decreases the risk of choking) 

Most doctors suggest that the foods in the list above should not be offered to children until they are at least three or four years of age. 

2. Always watch infants and young children while they eat. Insist that your children sit down to eat or drink. 

3. Keep small objects out of reach. Small household objects commonly cause choking. Examples:

  • Coins
  • Safety pins
  • Paper clips
  • Marbles
  • Beads
  • Latex balloons
  • Toys with small parts

This information was obtained in part from the American Heart Association, "Pediatric Basic Life Support"


Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 05/2012