Choking: Do You Know How To Save Your Child’s Life?

I have small children in my house.  I also have big children in my house.  Their ages range from seven months to twelve years of age.  Unfortunately, that means that there are many different toys for different ages in my house.  There are Squinkies, My Little Ponies, Littlest Pet Shop, Barbie’s, John Deere Tractors (which are the only tractors in this house), balls, a kitchen set…the list goes on and on.  

Sometimes a Squinkie gets left out or  a tiny Lego.  Who finds these little toys on the ground?  The 18-month-old does.  Does he put them away?  NO.  He eats them!  We are constantly telling him to not put things in his mouth and having him spit out whatever it was . We explain over and over again about what could happen if you put something in your mouth that’s not supposed to be in your mouth.  We also tell our older girls that they have to make sure that they get all the little toys picked up, because their brothers WILL find them and either destroy them or eat them.  

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Well, this week has been a rough one.  Somehow my 7-month-old got a piece of sliced cucumber in his mouth and choked on it.  (I’m assuming one of the older brothers thought they would share.)   Also this week, my 18-month-old choked on a rock.  Yes, a rock!  When I saw what was happening, I started to panic.  Luckily, when I worked for the local child care & the Iowa Army National Guard, I was required to take First Aid/CPR/AED classes for several age groups of kids/adults and knew what to do.  

What happened first was my son came over crying to me, which is good, because that meant his airway was not blocked.  But, I could tell by the way he was acting, he had something lodged in his throat.  He kept coughing and gagging.  (If you have never seen someone choke, there is a lot of saliva that can run out of their mouths, too.)   I admit–I panicked! I had my oldest daughter get my phone, and was about to dial my doctor for help when my instincts kicked in.  I told her to be ready at any moment to dial 911.  

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While my son was crying, his mouth was open wide, so I looked to see if I could see the object. I didn’t see anything.  I then took my son in my arms and laid him across my left forearm. I’m right handed so it seemed natural to position him that way.  Then, I angled him down so that his face was pointed toward the ground. I gave him four firm thumps on the back with the heel of my hand (the bottom part of your hand where it meets your wrist).  Next, I rolled him over and checked his mouth again.  (I never did a finger sweep.  It can cause the object to be lodged further into the throat, or it can get relodged if it came out.)  Nothing was there and he was still crying and obviously in distress.  I laid him over my forearm again and repeated the process.  On the 3rd thump, he threw up the rock and part of his supper.  

I felt relief! I wanted to cry.  Seeing your child in pain and hurting is something that just plain sucks.  If I hadn’t been already trained in that area, I don’t know what I would have done.  I can guess that I would have called for an ambulance and then called my doctor, but who knows what would have happened or how long it would have taken to get the help we needed immediately.

The steps I took didn’t quite follow the guidelines, but I’m a little rusty and tried my best. I didn’t have time to look up the step-by-step guide.  Technically you are supposed to thumb the child 5 times on their backs, I only did four.  You’re then supposed to roll them over, check the mouth (no finger swipes), and do five chest compressions.  Then you repeat the process until you get the object out or help arrives.    

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The American Red Cross has a Babysitter’s Training guide & a Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED Ready Reference available on their website. There is also this helpful video on Youtube that goes through the steps of helping a infant or child if they are choking.  I personally liked the in-classroom teachings, because they are hands-on.  I learn better seeing and trying then I do reading a manual.  If you are interested in taking a class, here is the American Red Cross website that can help you find a class near you.

I think that high schools or even middle schools should teach children First Aid/CPR/AED.  Heaven forbid they are in a situation like that with a friend or sibling and don’t know what to do.  You never know when that training will come in handy.  They might even be able to save a complete stranger someday just by knowing and remembering their training.  The training might possibly help them get a job some day.  There are so many benefits to knowing First Aid/CPR/AED.

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If your child was choking, would you know what to do?


P.S.  My 7-month-old got the cucumber out before I could help him.  He’s also doing fine. 🙂


Amber has called Iowa home all her life. She and her husband Jeremy live on an acreage just south of Traer where they raise their 6 blue eyed, blonde haired babes. Amber is a stay at home mama to 3 girls ages 12, 9, & 4 and 3 boys ages 2,1, & 7 months. Amber earned an AAS in Early Childhood Education at Hawkeye Community College. She also spent 9 years in the Iowa Army National Guard. Amber is always busy attending Redhawk sporting events, 4­H meetings, teaching RE classes at St. Paul, reading stories, playing house, cooking, feeding various animals, & running around after her kids. In her spare time (ha!) she likes to can produce out of the huge garden her husband plants every year, read a book to the end, watch a good movie (that she normally falls asleep in the middle of) and spend time with Jeremy, which is normally at Iowa Hawkeye Wrestling Meets! Go Hawks!


  1. Thanks for posting this! Just yesterday i was doing dishes across the tall kitchen island and my almost 4 year old daughter was sitting at the table. I heard choking sounds an dropped what I was doing and ran towards her. She was also running towards me with a frightened look on her face. We met in the middle and she heaved and out came a grape. I don’t cut grapes for her anymore but this is the second time she has partially choked on one! The other time I was sitting right next to her watching a movie (not her). I told her she did a good job coming to try to find me, that she needed to chew the grapes right when she puts them in her mouth, and that I’ll cut them for her next time! Definitely scary!


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