• Infant Choking: How To Help

    Choking is especially common in young children, but a person of any age can choke. Choking occurs when the airway becomes either partially or completely blocked by a foreign object, such as a piece of food or a small toy; by swelling in the mouth or throat; or by fluids, such as vomit or blood. A person who is choking can quickly become unresponsive and die, so it is important to act quickly.

    Children younger than 5 years are at particularly high risk for choking. Infants and toddlers explore by putting things in their mouths and can easily choke on them. Even some common foods can be choking hazards in young children.

    Emergency Steps


    Check the scene safety, form an initial impression, obtain consent and put on PPE, as available.


    Check for signs and symptoms.

    • Weak or no cough*
    • High-pitched squeaking noises or no sound*
    • Pale or blue skin color*
    • Unable to cough or cry*
    • Panicked, confused or surprised appearance*

    *Note: Signs and symptoms with a * require immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Call 9-1-1 and get equipment if the person requires immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Give Care.

    General Care: Choking Infant

    1. Position infant face-down along your forearm using your thigh for support.
      1. Keep the infant's head lower than their body.
    2. Give 5 firm back blows.
      1. Use the heel of the hand to strike between the shoulder blades.
    3. Turn infant face-up with their head lower than their body.
    4. Give 5 quick chest thrusts.
      1. Chests thrusts should be about 1 ½ inches deep.
    5. Continue giving 5 back blows and 5 chest thrusts.
      1. Continue until the infant can cough or cry or becomes unresponsive.
    6. If the infant becomes unresponsive, lower them to a firm, flat surface and begin CPR (starting with compressions) according to your level of training.
      1. Trained responders: After each set of compressions and before attempting breaths:
      2. Open the infant's mouth.
      3. Look for an object.
      4. If seen, remove it using your pinky. NEVER do a pinky sweep unless you actually see the object.

    Choking Infant FAQs

    How do I give back blows for an infant?

    To give back blows:

    • Sit, kneel or stand, supporting the infant’s back along your forearm braced by your thigh.
    • Hold the infant’s head cradled by your hand.
    • Keep their head lower than their chest.
    • Place your other forearm along the infant’s front, supporting the infant’s jaw with your thumb and forefinger.
    • Turn them to a face-down position, holding them along your forearm.
      • Use your thigh for support.
      • Keep their head lower than their body.
    • Use the heel of your hand to give 5 firm back blows between the infant’s shoulder blades.

    How do I give chest thrusts for an infant?

    • Give chest thrusts if back blows don’t help.
    • Turn the infant face-up, supporting the head and neck and resting them on your thigh.
    • Keep their head lower than the chest.
    • Place two fingers in the center of the chest just below the nipple line.
    • Give 5 quick chest thrusts about 1 ½ inches deep.

    What should I do if the infant is able to cough or cry?

    Encourage the infant to keep coughing, but continue to observe them. Do not leave them alone and be prepared to act if their condition changes.

    Do I treat a child who is choking the same as an infant?

    No. Use a combination of 5 back blows then 5 abdominal thrusts. An infant requires 5 back blows then 5 chest compressions to clear the airway.

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