Choking In The Unconscious Child

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Choking in an unconscious child may occur when the upper airway, usually thethroat or windpipe, is blocked by an object or irritation. A child for the purposesof this article is 1 to 8 years old.

What are the causes and risks of the injury?

Choking is usually caused by objects that the child has placed in his or hermouth. These include toys, candy, popcorn, hot dogs, nuts, batteries, rocks,and buttons. Things that wrap around the neck and constrict it, such asstrings or rope, can also cause choking.

Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the injury?

Signs and symptoms of choking in an unconscious child include:

  • lack of breathing
  • inability to move air in and out of the lungs, even with assistance
  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the injury diagnosed?

    A child who is unconscious due to choking will be unresponsive.The rescuer will be unable to push air into the lungs with mouth-to-mouthbreathing. Bystanders may report an episode of choking, followed byunconsciousness.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the injury?

    Some cases of choking can be avoided by:

  • giving young children only age-appropriate toys
  • avoiding toys that break easily, have small parts, or have batteries
  • keeping foods such as popcorn, hot dogs, nuts, and seeds away from smallchildren
  • keeping buttons, watch batteries, coins, rocks, and any other smallhousehold items away from little children
  • keeping strings and ropes away from small children. Never tie a pacifierwith string to a child’s clothing. The string could get wrapped around thechild’s neck.
  • Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the injury?

    First aid for an unconscious child who has choked includes:

  • checking for signs of circulation, such as normal breathing, coughing, ormovement in response to stimulation
  • contacting the emergency medicalsystem immediately
  • opening the child’s mouth by grasping the tongue and lower jaw between yourthumb and fingers and lifting. Only if you see the object should you gentlysweep your index finger in a hooking motion deeply into the child’s mouth toremove it.
  • starting cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, if the child has no signs ofcirculation. Use 5 chest compressions for every 1 mouth-to-mouth rescuebreath.
  • placing the child in a side-lying position if he or she starts breathingand monitoring closely
  • staying with the child until medical help arrives
  • What are the side effects of the treatments?

    The chest compressions of CPR can cause vomiting, injuries to internal organs, or broken ribs. Vomiting canbe a problem if the vomit is caught in the airway and inhaled into the lungs.None of the procedures may work, and the child may still choke, remainunconscious, or possibly die.

    What happens after treatment for the injury?

    Anytime a child chokes, medical attention should be sought since the objectmay have been inhaled into the lung. This can cause wheezing, persistent cough, or pneumonia.

    Article type: xmedgeneral