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Health & Safety

Do You Know What to Do if Your Child Starts Choking?

One mom credits an infant safety course with the quick reaction that saved her child

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Knowing what to do in an emergency is critical, as one mom proved in a video that recently went viral. The video shows the mom in the playroom when her daughter comes running up to her, choking. After giving her daughter back blows to no avail, she's able to help her daughter cough up a veggie chip by giving her abdominal thrusts (the Heimlich maneuver), according to Inside Edition. The mom credits the infant safety classes she took for her quick action. 

Completing an infant safety course and learning how to prevent choking should be your top priorities, Zach Zarilli, ex-firefighter and President of SureFire CPR, a California-based company that trains medical professionals in CPR. Here's what to know:

To prevent choking:

Slow down. "When eating, encourage kids to chew slowly to ensure any food is swallowed completely," Zarilli says. Also make sure children sit down to eat, rather than eating on the go.

Supervise mealtime. Don't leave your child alone while he's eating. In the case of the mom above, she was able to help her child because she was nearby.

Cut it up.
For babies and little kids, food should be cut into small pieces no bigger than one-half inch.

Avoid high risk foods. Children under four should avoid the following foods, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): hot dogs, chunks of meat or cheese, whole grapes, chunks of raw vegetables or peanut butter, nuts, seeds, popcorn, hard or sticky candy, or chewing gum.

Keep small objects away from children. Kids under three often put things in their mouth, so it's best to keep small objects out of reach. The most dangerous choking hazards, according to the AAP are: coins, buttons, marbles, button-type batteries, balloons, magnets, and other items that are small enough to fit entirely inside a child's mouth.

Know the signs. Even when you do everything right, your child can still choke. And if this happens, the first thing a parent needs to do is stay as calm as possible, says Zarilli who says to look for these signs: "Your child coughs for longer than 30 seconds; her face gets darker or develops a blue tinge; she cries, but there's no sound; she begins flailing or is struggling to breathe."

If you see these signs take the following actions:

Assess: If your child is still able to speak or has a strong cough while choking, do not do anything as coughing is more effective than back blows or abdominal thrusts, according to the AAP

Call for help. Call 9-1-1 immediately, even if your child is able to cough, since there is still the risk that the choking could become worse.

Give the Heimlich. Here's how to do it, according to the AAP: Place yourself behind a standing or sitting child and wrap your arms around her waist. Place the thumb side of your fist on the middle of her abdomen, well below the lower tip of the breastbone. Then grab that fist with your free hand, press inward with rapid, upward thrusts. Repeat the thrusts until the object is coughed up or the youngster begins to breathe or cough. For a baby, you might need to put them over your arms and do back blows this same way.

Sweep the airway. Do this very carefully, as it's possible to accidentally push the object in even deeper. Open your child's mouth, hold your thumb over her tongue and cradle your fingers around the lower jaw to move the tongue away from the back of the throat. If you can see the foreign object, try removing it with a sideways sweep of a finger.

Give rescue breaths. Try to give your child two slow rescue breaths, by placing your mouth over your child's mouth and pinching her nose. If this doesn't work, repeat the process (the Heimlich, airway sweep and rescue breaths) until help arrives. If a child does not have a pulse, have someone trained in CPR begin it immediately.