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When an infant is choking it is a very worrying situation for everyone. By their very nature, infants are more likely to choke on food or small objects than adults and it is important to act quickly.

If an infant has a mild obstruction in the throat there is still some air going through and they should be able to cough, but if you are dealing with a severe obstruction where either food or an object has become lodged in the throat, there is no way any air can get through.

The infant will be very distressed and unable to breathe, cry or cough, so once you have checked that they are not breathing you will need to lay the infant face down along your thigh, usually whilst sitting down. Use one hand to support the head, and with the other hand you can provide up to five back-blows between the shoulder blades using the heel of your hand, check between blows to see if the obstruction has cleared, but if nothing comes out, turn the child over, face upwards and laying on your leg so you can check their mouth. If there is an obvious obstruction remove it with your fingers, but never perform blind finger sweeps as you may push the obstruction further into the throat.

If the obstruction is still in place, you will need to perform chest thrusts, and for this the infant should still be laying on your leg facing upwards. Put two fingers on the lower part of the breastbone, one fingers breadth below the nipple line and push inwards and downwards towards the infant’s head, do this up to five times to try to clear the object.

If you have unable to remove the obstruction, ask someone to call the Emergency Services, and if you are alone, take the infant with you while you make the call. You will need to repeat 5 back blows and check the infant’s mouth again, followed by another 5 chest thrusts. Repeat if necessary until the object clears or the emergency services arrive.

If the infant becomes unconscious at any time, be ready to open the airway and check for breathing, and if they are not breathing you will need to begin CPR.