Staff members at Bond County Health Department’s Health Families America Program warn parents of potential choking hazards in their children’s Christmas gifts this holiday season. As Christmas approaches there is generally a frenzy of activity in the homes of children, even those who don’t celebrate Christmas seem to get caught up in the excitement of presents, over eating and general merriment.
Director of Healthy Families America, Monica Rensing says many small objects pose a risk to infants and small children. “Small toys are choking hazards, so nothing that can fit through a toilet paper tube should be given to children under 3.” Rensing says. “Also, those small parts that come apart like LEGO sets, etc, especially if they’re sharp, you have to be careful with those as well.”
Rensing says the biggest threats to infants and small children – beyond becoming a choking hazard – are batteries. “Especially a lot of those button batteries we put in electronics these days, children can swallow them just like they would a coin,” Rensing says. “However, the difference between a button battery and a coin is it takes no time at all for it to burn through the esophagus or the stomach of a child. Therefore, it is an emergency if they were to swallow one.”
Keeping choking hazards away from small children is a year-round issue and goes beyond the child’s toys. There are other things children eat this time of year like popcorn and hard candy that could cause a child to choke. Rensing also warns of keeping medicine planners and purses that may have medications in them out of the reach of children.
Should the worst happen and your child starts to choke it is most important to remain calm. You need to reassure the child that everything is going to be fine. If the child is choking but still coughing effectively, encourage them to cough –it is still the best way to clear an airway.
If a child’s airway is completely blocked and they are unable to make any sound, then back blows are the best way to dislodge the object but have someone call 911. Do not leave the child alone. Bend the child forward, if they are small enough, lean them over your knee, so the head is lower than the chest. Give up to 5 firm blows between the shoulder blades with the palm of your hand. Check between blows to see if the obstruction has cleared. If back blows are ineffective, then as a last resort abdominal thrusts should be used. Stand or kneel behind the child. Put both arms around their waist, make a fist with one hand and place it just above the belly button (below the ribs) with your thumb inwards. Grasp this fist with your other hand. Thrust sharply inward and upwards. Do this up to 5 times, but check between thrusts and stop if the obstruction is cleared. Rensing advises parent to not use their hands to retrieve the object because doing so may push the object further down.
For more information regarding the Healthy Families America program at Bond County Health Department, call 618-664-1442.