Choking occurs when someone is unable to breathe because food, a toy or other object is blocking the throat or windpipe.

Causes of choking

In infants, choking is usually caused by breathing in or swallowing small things that the baby has placed in their mouth, e.g., a button, coin, balloon, toy part or watch battery.

A complete blockage is a medical emergency; while, a partial blockage can quickly become life-threatening if the baby cannot get enough air.


The danger signs of choking include:

  • Skin turns blue
  • Difficulty breathing, causing ribs and chest to pull inward
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Inability to cry or make sound
  • Weak or ineffective coughing
  • Soft or high-pitched sounds during inhalation

First Aid for choking

AVOID performing these steps if the baby is coughing hard or is crying strongly. Strong coughs and cries can help push the object out of the windpipe.

Follow these steps, only if your child is not coughing forcefully or does not have a strong cry:

  • Lay the baby face down, along your forearm. You can support the baby on your thigh or lap. Hold the baby’s chest in your hand and the jaw with your fingers. Point the baby’s head downward, lower than the body.
  • Give about 5 quick, forceful blows between the infant's shoulder blades with the palm of your free hand.

If the object does not come out of the airway after 5 blows:

  • Turn the infant face-up with the support of your thigh or lap. Support the baby’s head.
  • Place 2 fingers on the middle of the breastbone just below the nipples.
  • Give about 5 quick thrusts down, compressing the chest one third to one half the depth of the chest.
  • Continue 5 back blows followed by 5 chest thrusts until the object moves or the infant becomes unconscious.


If the baby becomes unresponsive, stops breathing or turns blue:

  • Shout for help.
  • If you are able to see the object blocking the airway, try to remove it with your finger. Try to remove it only if you can see it.
  • AVOID trying to pull out the object if the infant is conscious.
  • AVOID back blows and chest thrusts, if the infant stops breathing due to other reasons, e.g., asthma, infection, swelling or a blow to the head.
  • Always inform your doctor after a child has been choking, even if the object was successfully removed from the airway and the infant seems fine.

Prevention tips

  • Avoid giving balloons or toys with small parts that can break off to children under 3 years old
  • Keep away buttons, popcorn, coins, grapes, nuts and other small items from infants.
  • Keep a check on infants and toddlers when they are eating. Do not let your child crawl around while eating.


  1. Choking - infant under 1 year[Internet]. Available at: Accessed on Feb 26, 2020.