Children and Choking: Prevention and What to Do

Last updated on September 4th, 2015 at 09:00 pm

Child CPR

the Heimlich maneuver

Recently, in the classes I have been teaching there has been an overwhelming amount of questions regarding choking in children and how to prevent it and what to do when it happens? With choking being one of the top 5 killers of children in the United States, there is never a bad time to cover choking in children and what we as parents and caregivers can do to prevent and deal with the situation.

Let’s face it, children choke on almost anything. If you have children or are a caregiver to children then you know that children love to put new things into their mouths and taste test everything and the younger the child, the more stuff they will put in there without any regard for what it might be. The questions of how to prevent choking in children has a lot to do with age. What I tell new parents or soon to be parents and grandparents are to go home. This may sound silly but home is where the battlefield is. I tell them to go home and see their home from a new perspective. We as adults see the world from very high up, our perspective tends to make us look down on most things in our homes. A small child or infant will see the home from an entirely different perspective looking up at most things in the home. So what I recommend to the adults is to go home and lie down on the floor in every room and see what an infant might see. It’s a whole new world down there with things like splinters under wood furniture, nail heads or staples sticking out, strings from fabrics, and the most important thing of all being that the infant or small child will find everything you have lost under all your furniture, including pills, paperclips, popcorn, you name it. So as I said before, go home and gain a child’s perspective on your home.

Preventing choking in older children has mainly to do with food and how it is prepared and eaten. We have all said “don’t stuff your face” or “chew your food “a thousand times, but the preparation is where we can make a significant difference. What I tell parents is to cut, cut and cut again. With foods like hot dogs, grapes, fruit and many other solid foods, cutting beforehand is the key. Other, lesser known culprits like popcorn, peanuts and even cereals can be broken down by simply putting them in a bag beforehand and crushing them a little bit to break them down.

What to do when the choking begins are the most important and the most frightening, but thinking is the key.

Baby CPRIf you have an infant that starts choking at home, the first step should be to bring the infant to you by taking them out of whatever apparatus they are in at the moment, highchair or bouncer for example. Secondly, you should scream for anyone you are with to call 911 and inform them of a choking infant, or you may have to bring baby to the phone and call 911 while relieving the choking yourself. Even if the choking was sudden and the event ends right away, at least help is on the way. The third thing should be to be seated and position the infant face down with the legs straddling your arm and your hand on the infants jaw, all while keeping the baby’s head pointed down in order to use gravity should anything come out or loose. You will use the palm of your free hand to strike down, but towards the head of the infant, between the shoulder blades 5 times. Then you will put your free hand on the back of the baby’s head and sandwich the baby and flip them over to your other leg and then place your two fingers between the baby’s nipples and do 5 chest compressions or chest thrusts. You will repeat this until the object is removed, the baby starts breathing, or the baby becomes unconscious.

Should the baby go unresponsive, lie the baby down on a hard, flat surface and begin cpr on the baby.

Choking for the older child is much the same as choking for an adult, just on a smaller scale. If you notice an older child that appears to be choking, you can ask them “are you choking? “ and if given confirmation that they are choking then you will kneel down behind the child, so you can be roughly the same height, and use the Heimlich maneuver, (see the picture at the top of the page) the same one you use on adults, to relieve the choking. If it is unsuccessful and the older child becomes unresponsive then lay the child down on a hard, flat surface and begin cpr.

The most important times in this event are the identification of choking, the sooner the better, and the call to 911, again the sooner the better. There are a million things anyone can choke on and our homes are where most of the action takes place so please take a little time and do some prevention work around our homes and as always, I recommend taking an official American Heart Association CPR class in your area that will cover the CPR and choking (click here to find a course) and give you ample practice time so you can be better prepared.

Thank you and be safe.

The SpongeBob Movie is Sensory Friendly this Saturday!

Last updated on March 24th, 2015 at 10:26 pm

Sensory-Friendly-Films-logoOnce a month, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and with other special needs “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy their favorite “family-friendly” films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

The-SpongeBob-MovieDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

On Valentine’s Day, Saturday February 14th, at 10am local time, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water will be screened as part of the Autism Society “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” program. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming March 28th: Home


Editor’s note: Although The SpongeBob Movie has been chosen by the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for mild action and rude humor. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 02-02-2015 to 02-08-2015

Last updated on February 12th, 2015 at 10:42 am

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 10 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
What Causes Girls to Enter Puberty Early? Stress and obesity are likely culprits

How To Save Your Child From Drowning

Last updated on February 18th, 2015 at 03:53 pm

Throw a life preserverAfter learning I work in water safety, a man told me about how he saved a man from drowning in Hawaii. Several families were exploring tide pools on the lava rocks and a wave swept one man into the water, about 4 feet below the rocks. The waves were wild, pounding the victim against the sharp lava as he was tossed in the churning water. Anyone who had jumped in to help him would have ended up in the same helpless position, so there would have been more than one victim and probably multiple deaths. Everyone was forced to watch the victim drown, including his wife and two young daughters. Fortunately, the man telling me the story had been a Boy Scout and had learned how to rescue someone safely. He tied beach towels together, lay on his stomach and put the makeshift rope over the side. By this time the victim was losing strength and was bleeding badly from multiple cuts. He couldn’t grab the rope. The rescuer finally starting yelling at him (in strong and rather pointed language) that he absolutely could not let his daughters watch him die. A couple of lucky waves pushed the victim against the rope and he grabbed one knot. Another lucky wave swept him up to the next knot, and slowly they got the victim onto the rocks to safely.

This is not an isolated incident. I see too many stories like this, where the would-be rescuer also dies, or a parent goes in to save a child and either both die, or just as often, the parent dies and the child is rescued by someone else. It doesn’t have to be like this.

Take the time to learn how to rescue someone safely, and teach your children.

The rule is REACH. THROW. GO.

  • REACH for the person using a pole, knotted towels, an oar, anything that the drowning person can grab hold of so you can pull them to safety.
  • THROW something that floats to the drowning person. A life ring. An empty gallon jug. A thermos chest. A flotation cushion. A tree log. Don’t throw it at them, just near them, you don’t want to knock them unconscious. Throw anything that floats so they can conserve their strength and try to kick back to safety. Look around, there is a growing movement to have life rings or flotation tubes near open water. Kauai and on the River Thames in the UK are leaders in this area, and yes, they have saved many lives.
  • GO! Run for help! If you are anywhere near a lifeguard, there is only a 1 in 18 million chance the person will die from drowning because lifeguards are the best insurance going. If you aren’t near a lifeguard, run for more help or for something to reach or throw. Call 911. And when you are teaching your child these things, remind them ALWAYS call for an adult.

For my money, the Boy Scouts of America have the best in basic ‘how to rescue someone’ materials. Although I come from, and have, a Scouting family, you don’t have to join, you can find out what the basic requirements are for swimming and lifesaving by looking at their merit badge requirements online. Click here for swimming merit badge requirements. Click here for lifesaving merit badge requirements. The rule in my family is you have to be able to pass every requirement before the swimming lessons stop. It’s not for the badge (though my son earned his), it’s because these badges summarize one of the most basic life skills you can have. The Boy Scouts do water safety extremely well.

A final word about the Hawaii drowning scare. There were signs cautioning of the danger of being swept overboard. I realize the U.S. is so lawsuit crazy that we have signs for everything, meaning we all ignore most of them, but let me be clear, water safety is grossly underfunded. If there is a sign warning of danger in an area where there is open water, I guarantee the danger already happened. There is too much water and too little money to just be planting signs around. If there is a sign, there is a reason.

BreathableBaby Crib Bumpers – For Baby’s Safety AND Comfort

Last updated on August 31st, 2015 at 12:41 am

For more than ten years, parenting experts, child product safety organizations, and new parents have been talking about the potential safety hazards of using traditional crib bumpers inside infants’ cribs despite the benefits of preventing head, arm and leg injuries.

We are Dale and Susan Waters, married entrepreneurs from Minnesota who turned fear for our baby’s safety inside her crib into a mission to create something that would not only help protect babies but also provide peace of mind for parents. We invented the Breathable Mesh Crib Bumper; a product designed to reduce the risks of suffocation caused by traditional bumpers, while protecting a baby’s limbs from becoming entrapped in the crib slats.

BreathableBaby is Born

12 years ago, we woke to the sound of our 3-month-old daughter screaming in agony from her crib. Our daughter, Sierra had gotten her legs twisted and wedged between the slats of her crib. Her face was pinned against the mattress.

There were many sleepless nights for us and our daughter – no matter what we tried she kept getting her little arms and legs caught between the crib slats. In addition to the obvious pain of being stuck, we feared she would break an arm or leg, or develop neuropathy. But we refused to use a soft, pillowy crib bumper for fear of suffocation.

Research shows that a baby can snuggle up right against their crib bumper. If the baby’s nose and mouth are too close to the bumper, it can potentially cause dangerous re-breathing of carbon dioxide or suffocation. A baby can also get wedged between crib slats and the mattress, unable to escape and possibly suffocate. Because the safety and potential dangers of crib bumpers has been in the news recently, many parents are unsure about how to keep their babies comfortable and safe.

As parents, we were frustrated and upset to learn there was no practical solution available in the marketplace. As designers and entrepreneurs we decided we had to do something about it and devoted ourselves to developing a safer, “breathable” solution – preferably one that was affordable and easy to use. So, we took a break from the media, marketing and music company we owned, and focused on creating a safer solution for babies.

We researched and sourced fabrics, designed and engineered prototypes, held focus groups with mothers and sought extensive third party safety evaluations by a world-leader in safety consultation before finally introducing a safer, smarter mesh crib bumper to the market three years later in 2002.

What makes BreathableBaby mesh crib bumpers so much safer is our Air Channel Technology™ (A.C.T.) designed to prevent suffocation. A.C.T. maintains air access should a baby’s mouth and nose press up against the fabric. When the BreathableBaby fabric is compressed it is virtually impossible to form an airtight seal. In fact BreathableBaby has “fabric cards” available so that parents can experience the A.C.T. safety feature for themselves — just send in a request along with your address information to and we’ll send you one free of charge.

Since its launch, we’re proud to say that the BreathableBaby™ brand has forged a new category in “breathable” bedding, and is embraced by parents worldwide. Our products have won numerous awards including The Child Safety House Calls Award of Excellence, and National Parenting Center Seal of Approval for innovation, functionality, design and contribution to creating a safer, healthier crib environment.

It’s imperative that parents are aware of the potential dangers that may be part of a baby’s sleep environment. New information is available all the time, so we urge all expectant parents – first time or otherwise – to seek relevant news, alerts, studies and guidelines from news and safety organizations such as the ones listed in our Healthful Hints below.

Wishing you and your little one sweet dreams.


Six Steps to a Safe Sleep Environment For Your Baby

  1. Crib Mattress Should be Firm. A soft mattress may increase suffocation risks. Select a firm mattress that fits the crib tightly and a fitted sheet. You should have a fitted not be able to fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib side. Before purchasing a crib, visit to make sure the crib you selected has not been recalled.
  2. No Blankets for Baby. Do not place anything in baby’s crib that could be a suffocation hazard, including blankets. If you’re worried about keeping your baby warm, a better solution is an infant sleeper or wearable blanket that zips around your baby and can’t ride up over her face.
  3. Breathable Mesh Crib Bumpers. Crib bumpers that are plush, pillowy, and made of non-breathable fabric can increase the risk of suffocation. A safer crib bumper option is one that is mesh or breathable and allows for air flow – even when pressed against a baby’s mouth.
  4. De-Clutter the Crib. For most parents, all those cute stuffed animals and soft blankets might seem a natural fit for the crib, but unfortunately they all pose suffocation risks. Toys and stuffed animals are best saved for interactive play time.
  5. A bottle. Parents of older infants who have started holding their own bottles may be tempted to slip a bottle into the crib in case their baby wakes at night. But even a bottle can pose a suffocation risk. Plus, babies who fall asleep with a bottle in their mouths are prone to tooth decay from the milk sugars that sit on their teeth all night.
  6. Pacifiers. Some studies have shown that giving your baby a clean, dry pacifier reduces SIDS rates.

Resources For More Information On Safe Sleep and Crib Safety


Editor’s Note: So often with health and safety issues we have to make trade-offs between one risk and another: take a medicine to address a disease, but deal with the side-effects; exercise for health benefits but risk injuries. In the case of babies and cribs, parents have long had to make a trade-off between keeping babies safe from suffocation due to crib bumpers and protecting them from entanglement and injury in the crib slats. BreathableBaby mesh bumpers help parents address both these issues with peace of mind. We first ran this BreathableBaby post in 2011 and the company has continued to thrive, with additional products and awards to their credit.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 01-26-2015 to 02-01-2015

Last updated on February 10th, 2015 at 11:03 am

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Morphine following surgery may cause life threatening respiratory problems for some children who have had their tonsils and/or adenoids removed