By CELA on 19 Oct, 2019

Kids love to put everything in their mouths. We understand that this is developmentally normal, however when busy little bodies run around with objects in their mouth the risk of choking is high!

Sarah Hunstead, registered nurse and founder of CPR Kids shares 4 essential things every educator and carer needs to know

When it comes to eating, you need to be aware that choking and gagging are not the same. Choking is a medical emergency, when an object (anything that can fit into an old-school film canister!) blocks the airway (breathing tubes) either completely or partially. Different from choking, gagging is completely normal – the gag reflex helps prevent choking. So how do you tell the difference?

A child who is gagging may cough, turn red in the face, have watery eyes, and their tongue may push out the offending bit of food, or they may have a small vomit. This can happen when a child is learning to eat, or even when the dislike the taste of the meal they are eating! The key is that the child won’t be too distressed by this, they will gag and then happily keep eating (provided it is not the taste that is putting them off).

In contrast, a child who is choking will look scared. They may have an ineffective cough or be silent, and if the object isn’t cleared quickly, they will start to turn blue. They need your help very quickly!



When it comes to choking, here are 4 essential things you need to know:

1. Chop up the grapes (and sausages too)!

A child’s airways (breathing tubes) are smaller than an adult’s. This makes them more susceptible to getting objects stuck. A grape is the perfect size to lodge in a child’s airway, and they are incredibly difficult to get out once stuck. Always chop up the grapes into quarters when giving them to children. As long as they are no longer circular they are less likely to get stuck. Don’t forget to chop the cherry tomatoes and large blueberries too –  basically anything spherical in shape, and avoid cutting the sausages into circles – chop them into batons instead.

   2.  Sit down to eat

You need the skills of a highly trained negotiator to keep a toddler at the table, however running around with food does pose a risk of inhaling the contents of their mouth, even if it is just a snack. This goes for older kids too – kicking the footy around whilst eating a sandwich isn’t a great idea.


3. Stay where you can see them

Even though it may be tempting to attend to another child when one child is occupied eating (and strapped into the high chair to prevent escape), stay with them. Choking can be silent, so always stay where you can see them.

4. Know what to do if a child is choking

Most importantly, know what to do if a child does choke. Watch the CPR Kids video below on the first aid for the choking child.


Don’t attempt to do abdominal thrusts (Heimlich manoeuvre) on a child, use back blows and chest thrusts as shown in the video. Remember, gagging is completely normal, choking is not.


Even though we can try and prevent accidents such as choking, it can still happen! We can’t wrap our children in cotton wool, and nor should we want to – they need to explore the world. However, following these simple tips can help prevent choking in a child in your care, and most importantly, make sure you know the first aid response, just incase.


About CPR Kids & Sarah Hunstead

Sarah Hunstead RN (B Nurs) MNPaediatric Nurse, Mother of 2 and Founding Director of CPR Kids Sarah has over 15 years experience in Paediatric Emergency Nursing, and is continually amazed by the things that children will get up to. With a love of lifelong learning, Sarah has a Masters Degree in Clinical Practice, and founded CPR Kids in 2012.

CPR Kids empowers families, educators and carers of children to recognise and respond to a sick or injured child, with confidence. ‘A practical guide to baby and child first aid’ is Sarah’s first book. The title was inspired by her youngest daughter, who decided it would be a good idea to put a pea in her nostril.

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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