The baby suddenly finds it hard to breathe or even can’t breathe anymore. It is possible that we are facing a case of airway obstruction, if the child has inhaled a small object or a piece of candy or a bite of food has gone wrong. What to do, then, in these cases? Here’s how to behave according to the instructions of the pediatrician Alberto Ferrando, president of the Ligurian pediatricians association and first aid instructor BLSD. The information is taken from his book How to feed my son, (Editions LSWR 2017).
The first thing to do is distinguish the type of obstruction, because things to do change accordingly.
The inhaled object it does not completely obstruct the airways, whereby air passes and the child can breathe (sometimes noisily), cough, cry or talk (if older).
In this case, you simply have to encourage the child to coughand, staying in the position he prefers. “This – writes Ferrando – is the best solution, and often the child is able to free himself without consequences for his health”.
Warning: if the obstruction is partial, the maneuver to clear the airways MUST NOT BE DONE. If, despite the coughing, the situation does not unblock, alert 112.
No air passes through, so the baby cannot breathe, cough, cry or speak. Also, he puts his hands around his neck and changes color.
In this case, if the child is still conscious, the anti-suffocation maneuver, in different ways depending on the age of the child.
1) Infant under one year of age
Lay him face down on your forearm, supporting his back and head.
- Practice 5 interscapular pats with open palm;
- If the pats do not resolve the obstruction, turn the child on his back and perform 5 deep compressions (but not more than 4 cm) on the sternum, with the tip of two fingers;
Continue with the maneuvers until the infant expels the foreign body and resumes breathing or until he loses consciousness. In this case, you have to start the cardiopulmonary resuscitation sequence. If you don’t know it well (having taken a special course), the 112 operator will guide you through the sequence.
2) Big child, over the year (or adult)
Alternate 5 interscapular pats with 5 abdominal compressions (Heimlich maneuver).
For the pats: hold the child slightly bent forward and give him 5 strokes on the back, between the shoulder blades.
For the Heimlich maneuver: place a hand clenched into a fist between the breastbone and navel and grasp your fist with the other hand; carry out 5 firm compressions under the breastbone towards the top of the child’s abdomen (ie towards yourself and upwards, with a so-called “spoon” movement).
Continue with the maneuvers until the child expels the foreign body and resumes breathing or until he loses consciousness. In this case, the cardiopulmonary resuscitation sequence must be initiated. Again, if you don’t know it well (having taken a special course), the 112 operator will guide you through the sequence.