What to Do if Infant is Choking?: Emergency Guide

what to do if infant is choking

As a parent or caregiver, encountering a choking infant can be a terrifying experience. Knowing what to do can make all the difference in saving a baby’s life. In this comprehensive guide, we will provide you with step-by-step instructions on what actions to take if an infant is choking. We will also cover the common symptoms and treatment of infant choking, as well as preventive measures to reduce the risk of choking incidents.

Key Takeaways:

  • If an infant is choking, stay calm, and act quickly to clear the airway.
  • Immediate action should involve back blows and chest thrusts to dislodge the obstruction.
  • Infant CPR may be necessary to save a baby’s life.
  • Preventive measures such as avoiding small objects and cutting food into small pieces can reduce choking hazards for infants.
  • Seeking medical attention is crucial, even if the initial obstruction has been cleared.

Recognizing the Signs of Infant Choking

As a parent or caregiver, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of infant choking. The following symptoms may indicate that your baby is experiencing a choking episode:

  • Coughing or gagging
  • Difficulty breathing or noisy breathing
  • Blue or pale skin, especially around the lips
  • Loss of consciousness or unresponsiveness
  • Inability to cry or make noise
  • Weakened cough or gag reflex

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to act promptly to help your infant. However, it’s important to note that gagging is a normal reflex in babies, especially when starting to eat solid foods. Gagging is typically different from choking as it does not involve a complete airway obstruction.

Immediate Action: Clearing the Airway

If you suspect your infant is choking, the first step is to act quickly but calmly. Follow these steps:

  1. Assess the situation: Determine if your infant is indeed choking by checking if they are able to cry, cough, or breathe. If they make no noise or have difficulty breathing, they may be choking.
  2. Call for help: If you’re with someone, ask them to call emergency services. If you’re alone, provide first aid before calling for help.
  3. Support your infant: Hold your infant face down on your forearm and support their head and neck with your hand. Their face should be lower than their chest.
  4. Perform back blows: Firmly strike your infant’s back between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand up to five times. Check for the object after each blow.
  5. Perform chest thrusts: Turn your infant over onto their back while supporting their head and neck. Place two fingers on the center of their chest just below the nipple line, then push down up to five times. Check for the object after each thrust.
  6. Repeat: Continue alternating between back blows and chest thrusts until the object is dislodged or emergency services arrive.

It is important to note that if the choking infant becomes unconscious, perform CPR immediately until help arrives.

First Aid Techniques for Infant Choking

When an infant is choking, it’s essential to act quickly to dislodge the obstruction and restore breathing. If you have followed our guide on recognizing the signs of infant choking, and determined that an infant is indeed choking, it’s time to take immediate action.

Note: Make sure to call for emergency medical assistance if the infant continues to choke even after the obstruction has been cleared.

Step 1: Assess the Severity of the Choking

First, assess the severity of the choking. Before performing any first aid techniques, it’s important to determine whether the obstruction is partial or complete. If the airway is only partially blocked, the infant may be able to cough up the object on their own. However, if the airway is completely blocked, it’s important to intervene immediately.

Step 2: Perform Back Blows

If the infant is not able to cough up the object, it’s time to start back blows. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Place the infant face down on your forearm, with their head lower than their chest
  2. Use the heel of your hand to deliver five firm back blows between the infant’s shoulder blades
  3. Check the infant’s mouth to see if the object has been expelled. If not, move on to the next step.

Step 3: Perform Chest Thrusts

If back blows don’t work, it’s time to move on to chest thrusts. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Turn the infant over so that they are lying face up on your forearm, with their head lower than their chest.
  2. Using two fingers, push down gently but firmly on the infant’s breastbone, just below the nipple line.
  3. Perform five chest thrusts. Ensure that you’re not squeezing the infant’s ribs while doing so.
  4. Recheck the infant’s mouth. If the object is still present, repeat the cycle of back blows and chest thrusts until the obstruction is cleared.

Step 4: Perform CPR on Infants (if necessary)

If the infant still isn’t breathing, it’s time to perform CPR. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Place the infant on a flat, hard surface and begin CPR.
  2. Give the infant two rescue breaths, gently but firmly puffing air into their lungs.
  3. Perform 30 chest compressions at a rate of 100-120 per minute. Use two fingers to press down on the infant’s breastbone.
  4. Repeat the cycle of rescue breaths and chest compressions until they begin to breathe on their own or until medical help arrives.

Infant choking can be a scary experience, but by being prepared and knowing what to do, you can save a baby’s life. Remember to stay calm and never hesitate to call for professional medical assistance if necessary.

Preventing Infant Choking: Safety Measures

As a parent or caregiver, it’s essential to take steps to prevent infant choking incidents from occurring. Here are some safety measures to consider:

1. Avoid Choking Hazards

Be aware of and remove any potential choking hazards from your baby’s environment. This includes small objects, toys, food, and household items that can be easily swallowed or inhaled.

Choking Hazards to Look Out ForSafe Alternatives
Grapes, cherries, and other small fruits or vegetablesCut them into small pieces or offer soft, mashed versions
Coins, buttons, or other small objectsKeep them out of reach or in safe storage containers
Balloons, plastic wrap, or plastic bagsAvoid them altogether or keep them out of reach

2. Be Mindful of Food

When feeding your baby, avoid giving them foods that are difficult to swallow or have sharp edges. Cut food into small pieces or mash it to make it easier to eat. Always supervise feeding times and avoid distractions, such as watching TV or using your phone.

3. Educate Yourself and Others

Take an infant first aid course to learn more about emergency situations and how to respond. Share your knowledge with other caregivers, such as family members and babysitters. Ensure that everyone who looks after your baby knows what to do in case of an infant choking emergency.

4. Keep Emergency Numbers Handy

It’s important to have emergency numbers, such as poison control and paramedics, easily accessible in case of an emergency. Keep them in a visible location, such as on the fridge, and ensure that all caregivers know where to find them.

By implementing these safety measures, you can reduce the risk of infant choking incidents and create a safer environment for your baby.

Seeking Medical Help for Infant Choking

It is vital to seek medical help promptly following a choking incident, even if you have successfully cleared the infant’s airway. The medical evaluation will ensure that there are no residual obstructions or underlying conditions that require treatment.

If the baby continues to show signs of distress or breathing difficulties, seek emergency medical attention immediately. Call 911 or your local emergency number and provide all the necessary details.

If the choking incident caused the infant to lose consciousness or stop breathing, perform CPR immediately and continue until emergency services arrive.

Additional Tips for Dealing with Infant Choking

In addition to the steps outlined in the previous sections, there are several other tips and techniques that can help you deal with infant choking emergencies:

  • Learn to recognize the symptoms of choking. Being able to identify the signs of infant choking early on is crucial for taking appropriate action in a timely manner.
  • Practice infant CPR regularly. Taking a CPR course specifically designed for infants is highly recommended so that you can feel confident in your ability to perform the technique in an emergency.
  • Create a choking emergency plan. Knowing what steps to take ahead of time can help you feel more prepared and act more quickly in an emergency situation.
  • Avoid giving infants certain foods. Be aware of common choking hazards such as popcorn, grapes, and hot dogs, and refrain from giving these foods to your infant or toddler.
  • Keep emergency numbers on hand. Having important phone numbers for emergency services, pediatricians, and hospitals easily accessible can save valuable time in an emergency.

Remember, staying calm and acting quickly can make all the difference in a choking emergency. With the right knowledge and preparation, you can help keep your infant safe and sound.

Understanding the Risks: Common Choking Hazards for Infants

Infants are at a higher risk of choking due to their underdeveloped airways and tendency to explore their environment using their mouth. As a caregiver or parent, it’s essential to be aware of common choking hazards and take measures to prevent them.

Choking HazardPrevention Measures
Small ObjectsKeep small objects such as coins, buttons, and beads out of reach. Always check the flooring and carpets for small objects that could be picked up, and avoid toys with small detachable components.
FoodCut food into small pieces and supervise your infant while they are eating. Avoid giving hard or round foods that can easily get stuck in the throat, such as nuts, popcorn, and grapes.
ToysEnsure toys are age-appropriate and do not have small parts that could choke an infant. Inspect toys regularly for wear and tear, and remove any broken or damaged toys immediately.
BalloonsAvoid giving balloons to infants or young children as they are a common choking hazard. If balloons are present at a party or event, ensure they are out of reach of young children.

Remember, prevention is key when it comes to infant choking. Always supervise your infant and be proactive in creating a safe environment for them to explore.

Importance of Infant CPR Training

Infant CPR training is an essential skill for parents and caregivers to have. In the event of an infant choking emergency, knowing how to perform CPR can potentially save a life.

It is recommended that all parents and caregivers take an infant CPR course that specifically covers choking incidents. Most courses are available through hospitals, community centers, and other organizations.

Some parents may feel hesitant or uncomfortable with the idea of performing CPR on their child, but it is important to remember that taking action during an emergency can make all the difference.

During an infant CPR course, you will learn how to assess the situation, perform life-saving measures, and seek medical help if necessary. By gaining this knowledge and confidence, you can be better prepared to handle an infant choking incident should it ever occur.

Emphasizing Choking Prevention Measures at Home

Preventing infant choking incidents starts with creating a safe environment for your baby. You can take several measures to ensure your child’s safety at home.

  • Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of choking in infants. Breast milk is easily digestible, and the body can naturally prevent the milk from going down the wrong pipe.
  • Cut food into small pieces: When your baby transitions to solid food, cut it into small pieces to reduce the risk of choking.
  • Supervision: Always supervise your baby during feeding time. Never leave them alone while they are eating.
  • Remove potential choking hazards: Keep small objects out of reach, such as coins, jewelry, and other small items that could be swallowed.
  • Avoid hard or sticky foods: Foods such as popcorn, hard candy, and chewing gum should be avoided until your child is older and can safely eat them.

By taking these preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of infant choking incidents in your home.

Recognizing the Difference: Choking vs. Gagging

It is important to understand the difference between choking and gagging in infants. Gagging is a normal reflex that helps babies clear their airways when they experience something unpleasant or when eating unfamiliar foods. It is characterized by coughing, gagging, and spitting up food or liquid. On the other hand, choking occurs when the infant’s airway is blocked, preventing them from breathing normally. Choking may be silent or accompanied by wheezing, gasping, or blue discoloration of the face.

If your baby is gagging, it is important to remain calm and allow them to work it out on their own. However, if they are choking and unable to breathe, it is crucial to take immediate action. Remember to always seek medical attention if you are unsure or if you suspect a choking incident has occurred.

Common Myths and Misconceptions about Infant Choking

Infant choking is a serious and potentially life-threatening emergency. Unfortunately, there are several myths and misconceptions surrounding this issue that could put your baby at risk. Here are some of the most common myths debunked:

  1. Myth: If a baby is coughing, they are not actually choking.
  2. Fact: Coughing can be a sign of choking, and should not be ignored. A strong cough may actually dislodge the object obstructing the airway.
  3. Myth: You should perform a finger sweep to remove an object from an infant’s throat.
  4. Fact: Finger sweeps are not recommended for infants, as they can actually push the object further back in the throat. Instead, use back blows and chest thrusts to try and dislodge the obstruction.
  5. Myth: Giving water to an infant who is choking will help dislodge the object.
  6. Fact: Water can actually make the obstruction worse by causing it to swell. Stick to back blows and chest thrusts to clear the airway.
  7. Myth: You should hold an infant upside down and shake them to dislodge an obstruction.
  8. Fact: This is a dangerous myth that could actually harm the baby further by causing the object to move and block a different part of the airway. Use back blows and chest thrusts instead.

It’s important to stay informed and dispel any myths or misunderstandings surrounding infant choking. Proper education and preparation are key to being able to handle an emergency situation with confidence and effectiveness.

Staying Calm in an Infant Choking Emergency

Experiencing an infant choking emergency can be a terrifying and overwhelming experience, but it’s essential to stay composed and act promptly. Here are some tips to help you stay calm:

  • Breathe: Take a few deep breaths to calm your nerves and stay focused.
  • Assess: Quickly evaluate the infant’s condition to determine if they are choking or gagging.
  • Act: If the infant is choking, follow the steps outlined in the emergency guide provided in section 1.
  • Call for help: If you’re alone, call emergency services immediately. If someone is with you, ask them to call while you perform first aid procedures.
  • Stay prepared: Attend infant first aid courses, create a choking emergency plan, and keep emergency numbers handy

Remember, you’re not alone. Taking swift and decisive action, and staying calm, can help you save an infant’s life.


It is crucial to be prepared for infant choking emergencies by understanding the signs of choking and taking immediate action. Remember to clear the airway by performing back blows and chest thrusts if necessary and seek medical help if the obstruction is not cleared.

Learning infant CPR and implementing choking prevention measures in the home can also prevent serious choking incidents from occurring. Make sure to familiarize yourself with common choking hazards and keep emergency numbers easily accessible.

Staying calm during an infant choking emergency is vital. Remember to assess the situation, take action, and seek help if necessary. By following these tips and being prepared, you can potentially save a baby’s life.


Q: What should I do if my infant is choking?

A: If your infant is choking, it is important to act quickly. Follow these steps:

Q: What are the signs of infant choking?

A: The signs of infant choking may include difficulty breathing, coughing or gagging, and a bluish color in the skin.

Q: How do I clear an infant’s airway during choking?

A: To clear an infant’s airway during choking, you can perform back blows and chest thrusts. Follow step-by-step instructions for these techniques.

Q: What are the first aid techniques for infant choking?

A: The first aid techniques for infant choking include performing CPR if necessary. Learn the correct procedure for performing CPR on an infant.

Q: How can I prevent infant choking?

A: You can prevent infant choking by being aware of common choking hazards and taking safety measures. Follow our tips to create a safer environment for your baby.

Q: When should I seek medical help for infant choking?

A: It is important to seek medical help for infant choking, even if you have cleared the initial obstruction. Professional evaluation is necessary to ensure the baby’s well-being.

Q: Are there any additional tips for dealing with infant choking incidents?

A: Yes, we have additional tips and advice for dealing with infant choking incidents. These may include creating a choking emergency plan, attending infant first aid courses, and keeping emergency numbers handy.

Q: What are the common choking hazards for infants?

A: There are several common choking hazards for infants, such as small toys, coins, and certain types of food. Learn about these hazards and how to minimize the risks.

Q: Why is infant CPR training important?

A: Infant CPR training is important for parents and caregivers as it can potentially save a baby’s life in choking emergencies. Be prepared and learn the life-saving techniques.

Q: How can I emphasize choking prevention measures at home?

A: You can emphasize choking prevention measures at home by implementing practical tips and strategies. Create a safer space for your infant by following our recommendations.

Q: How can I recognize the difference between choking and gagging in infants?

A: It is important to recognize the difference between choking and gagging in infants. We will discuss how to distinguish between the two and provide guidance on appropriate actions for each scenario.

Q: What are some common myths and misconceptions about infant choking?

A: There are common myths and misconceptions surrounding infant choking. We will debunk these myths and provide accurate information to help you make informed decisions in emergency situations.

Q: How can I stay calm during an infant choking emergency?

A: Staying calm during an infant choking emergency is crucial. We will provide strategies and techniques to help you maintain composure and effectively assist the choking infant.

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