Gagging vs Choking
with thanks to Sam Mackay, First Aid Expert
In this blog, first aid expert, Sam MacKay from Keepabeat, talks about weaning safely – the differences between gagging and choking, choking emergencies, high risk foods and preparing foods safely. She also shares details of weaning first aid courses, designed to help you feel confident as you and your baby start your weaning journey.
It’s incredible if you think about it; babies have to learn to move the food around, chew, move it to the back of the mouth, swallow and breathe, all in pretty quick succession. The anatomy of a baby’s mouth is slightly different to ours; the gag reflex is more sensitive and acts like a gatekeeper, making sure that only air is allowed into the airway. But it takes some training and getting used to and of course babies grow, learn and develop at different rates, so some babies will naturally gag more than others. It doesn’t do your nerves any good though, does it?
Gagging vs Choking
When you start your weaning journey it’s important that you know the difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is a completely normal part of the weaning process. As your baby grows the gag reflex moves further back in the mouth and becomes less sensitive. You should find as they get older they will gag less.
Gagging is not choking – however, occasionally it may be a possible warning sign of a choking event.
Gagging is usually loud with coughing and/or spluttering. You may notice the eyes water a little. Try to stay calm and give baby lots of encouragement. Remember: If they’re RED let them go ahead. DO NOT be tempted to give them any back blows yet!
Choking is when an object has either partially blocked or completely blocked the airway.
You will likely see the child’s colour changing to pale/blue, and have a weak ineffective cough or no cough at all and may be silent. Remember: Quiet and BLUE they need help from YOU!
Click for our printable download that has a visual gagging vs choking image and the instructions on how to deal with a choking baby.
Hazardous foods and reducing the risk
These are generally foods that are round, hard, have a skin on or swell when wet (e.g. marshmallows). Below are some of the foods that are known to be more hazardous than others –
* Grapes, cherry tomatoes etc.
* Sausages and hotdogs
* Chunks of meat or hard cheese
* Raw jelly cubes
* Nuts and seeds
* Raw vegetables and fruits (apples etc.)
* Sweets, boiled, gummy, mini eggs etc.
How to prepare foods for your baby is important!
Foods that are round (like grapes) are best prepared in a way that makes them less likely to get lodged. Cut them straight down the middle lengthways and again so they are in quarters. Sausages are best cut long ways into quarters. If the skin is tough its best to remove it. Vegetables – either grate or cook so they are soft. Long and thin is best! Nuts and seeds can be ground down – be aware some peanut butters may be too lumpy – smooth is best.
Ideally try to keep meal times relaxed so that your child can concentrate on eating. Keep televisions and tablets off, the area quiet and always make sure your child is sitting down when eating. I know this can be easier said than done!
Baby Choking sequence:
Check the mouth (do not put your fingers into the back of the airway) and support the baby across your lap or along your arm (support their face by placing your hand around their chin)
Step 1: Give up to 5 back blows, using the heel of your hand in-between their shoulder blades
Step 2 : If ineffective turn them face up and support the head (either place on your lap or across your arm).
With two fingers in the centre of their chest do up to 5 chest thrusts at a depth of one third of the chest.
Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you clear the airway or they become unconscious. If they become unconscious call 999 and start CPR.
If you have administered a thrust you must have your baby checked over by a doctor so pop to your local hospital.
First Aid courses
One of the best ways to prepare for a choking emergency is to do a first aid course. We have two sessions:
First Aid For Parents and Carers: This award winning session has been designed specifically for anyone that cares for a baby or a young child. Although it can be worrying to ever think about having to deal with an unwell or injured child our trainers will deliver the session in a relaxed, engaging way with lots of opportunity for questions and discussions. You will leave our session feeling ready to deal with life’s little dramas. The sessions cover Baby and Child CPR, Baby and Child Recovery Position, Baby and Child Choking, Head Bumps, Burns, Temperatures, Croup and Meningitis. Sessions can be booked privately face to face or online. More information HERE
First Aid Course For Weaning: a jam packed 1 hour session that covers the difference between gagging and choking, choking sequence for babies, how to prepare foods safely, introducing allergens and dealing with allergic reactions. This session is for anyone that is getting ready to start weaning or has recently started. More information HERE
Expert paediatric first aid trainer, Sam Mackay, has been training parents, carers and childcare staff for over 15 years. Over that time KeepaBeat’s award winning sessions have helped 1000’s to feel more confident around what to do for both minor injuries and illness and medical emergencies. As a mum herself Sam knew the importance of not just teaching adults first aid but children too. KeepaBeat is now operating in various locations around the UK. The new Dinky Medics sessions are for 2 – 5 year olds and feed into the Junior Medics program which is for 5 – 11 year olds.
To find your local KeepaBeat team or an online session visit https://www.keepabeat.co.uk
Disclaimer: The views and advice given in this article are those of the guest writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Weaning World or any other organisations represented on this platform.