Foreign Body Airway Obstruction


Choking is probably one of THE biggest concerns for any parent. Rightfully so as choking can become life threatening very quickly. The comforting thing to know is the techniques we teach you in our KidzAid courses are very effective if applied immediately and are an essential first aid skill to have.

Small children pose the greatest risk of having a choking episode.  Food, fluids, toys, vomit, just about any small item can pose a choking risk to an inquisitive baby/child.

Diagnosis may not be clear-cut, but MUST be suspected if there is sudden coughing, gagging or a high pitched crowing sound.

Assess Severity

Ask yourself, does the child have an effective cough?

Effective cough means the child can speak or cry and take a breath in between coughs (partial obstruction).

Management of a partial obstruction:

• Remain CALM. An upset, distressed parent will make the situation worse.

• Do not give your child sips of fluid or tap them on the back.

• Make sure infants are sitting upright or over your shoulder.

• Encourage the child to continue coughing.

• Support and assess continuously.

• An ‘effective cough’ is more effective at relieving an obstruction than any intervention, therefore it is VITAL that you do not jump in prematurely and upset the body’s natural defence mechanism.

Assess Severity

Ask yourself, does the child have an ineffective cough?

An ineffective cough means exactly as it sounds, the child is unable to cough and therefore has a full obstruction. The child may change colour, make a high pitched crowing sound or may make NO sound. THIS IS A LIFE THREATENING MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Management of a full obstruction:

Once you have identified that the child has a full obstruction and has the inability to cough and clear their own airway, now is the time you must immediately take action and assist your child. The child’s airway is blocked, they are unable to cough, you now need to be their cough.

• Remain calm.

• If the child has a full obstruction you must send for help, dial 000 immediately.

• If the child is conscious you need to provide back blows and chest thrusts. Back blows and chest thrust are techniques used to try and increase the pressure in the chest and force the object out.

• Give up to 5 back blows, checking in between each blow to see if the object has been dislodged.

• If the child continues to have an ineffective cough, give up to 5 chest thrusts, again assessing between each thrust if the object has been dislodged.

• Continue the process of back blows and chest thrusts until the object has been dislodged.

• If the child becomes unconscious, you now have the GREEN light to start CPR.

Practice time

Our KidzAid workshops are very hands on and interactive. We guarantee you will walk away feeling confident and empowered with the management of a choking child. We can’t stress enough how essential it is to practice these techniques on our real-life baby and child manikins.