Although children under age four are most at risk for choking on food and small objects, youngsters in their middle years can choke too.
A number of foods or other items -- hot dogs, poorly chewed pieces of meat, grapes, raw carrots, hard candy, balloons, small toy parts -- can become lodged in the child's airway (or trachea), keeping oxygen from reaching the lungs and the rest of the body as well. When the brain does not receive oxygen for more than four minutes, permanent brain damage and death can result.
If your child is having some breathing difficulties but is still able to speak or has a strong cough, do nothing yourself; the child's cough is better than any back blows or abdominal thrusts (Heimlich maneuver) you can administer.
But call 911 so that he or she can be transported to an emergency department, since a partial blockage of the airway could turn into a complete one.
Dr. Deborah Mulligan shares lifesaving tips on getting certified in infant and child CPR and ways to keep your children safe from hazards.