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Choking when the child is in a car seat, how to react?

Atragantamiento cuando el niño va en la sillita, ¿cómo reaccionar?


Fries, popcorn, candy, boiled sweets, chewing gum, nuts, grapes... These are hard or small foods that can cause choking, especially to children. It is best option is to not let your child eat during the trip that could put them in danger, above all if they are traveling in the rear of the vehicle where you cannot reach them. 

Did you know that sausages can easily cause choking? This is due to their shape and size. Apart from sausages, other food, such as those listed above, can cause a child to choke. We also need to be careful with other food. According to the journal Pediatrics, milk also causes choking episodes in children under 1 year of age. This means we should be paying special attention to infants on journeys, making sure we do not feed them if they do not have adult supervision and are not in the best conditions. We must also pay attention to small objects such as marbles, small balls, etc. Children tend to put everything in their mouths and, as with food, can cause choking. 

Is is always best that the child does not eat when traveling in a car seat, and if he/she does, there must be adult supervision. 


Do not panic and stop the vehicle in a safe place. Continuously looking backwards could cause a traffic accident, so we suggest stopping the vehicle to attend to the child. 

Choking occurs when a foreign object becomes lodged in the windpipe. Coughing is a natural defense mechanism to expel foreign objects. How you react will depend on the child's age and whether he/she is conscious or not. If you don't know how to react, call for help immediately. It is important that the child gets help as soon as possible. 

These videos from the Spanish Heart Foundation explain how to perform this unblocking maneuver in infants and children over 1 year old.

It is important that all foreign objects are removed so that they do not cause complications: pneumonia, persistent cough, asthma and shortness of breath. In this regard and if the child is conscious, the child should be encouraged to cough so that he/she can expel it. Only if the object is easily removable and visible, we can try to remove it with our index finger as a hook.

If coughing fails to expel the foreign object and the child begins to look bad and turns blue (cyanosis) due to lack of air, the expulsion or Heimlich maneuvers should be performed, which consists of hugging the child from behind, passing the arms under the armpits and performing 5 abrupt compressions with both hands in the pit of the stomach, in an upward direction. if the child is not breathing, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation should be performed between Heimlich maneuvers.

If the child is less than one year old, the child should be placed face down, head bowed, and slapped 5 times between the two shoulder blades. Then turn him/her over and make 5 chest compressions with two fingers on the sternum. Similarly, if the child is not breathing, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation should be performed. 

While the maneuvers are being performed, somebody must call the emergency services (112 in Europe or 911 in the United States) so the child receives appropriate medical assistance. 

At Fundación MAPFRE we are carrying out the 'S.O.S Breath' initiative which aims to raise awareness of the risks of choking and how reacting correctly can save lives. With the 'Learning Together to Save Lives' program we promote that, from childhood, we all know how to act in the event of choking.

As well as an intensive awareness-raising and outreach campaign, a free app has been developed: S.O.S. Breathe, which explains in detail through video tutorials given by professionals, the measures to prevent choking as well as the necessary maneuvers to take immediate action. The application covers all cases of airway obstruction, even the most severe, and specific maneuvers for infants, pregnant women and overweight people.

Download the app on Android (Spanish)

Download the app on IOS (Spanish)

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