Foreign Body Aspiration in Children

Dr Sharada S

What is foreign body aspiration? 

Aspiration or Choking occurs when an object becomes stuck in the throat or windpipe, blocking the flow of air. It is usually due to food, toys or other small objects. It is common in children less than 5 years of age.

•    Foreign body aspiration in children is an unfortunate accidental event with considerable morbidity and mortality.

•    It should be considered as a preventable disease, as an event which could be stopped from occurring.

•    Foreign body aspiration in children is among the common five causes of unintentional, sudden deaths in children <5 years of age.

How do you know if your child is choking?

Child may have sudden episode of coughing while eating. If the child is grabbing the throat with one or both hands and finding it difficult to breathe, it means he is choking.

Total blockade of airway leads to death, whereas partial blockade presents with recurrent cough or wheezing. If your child has unexplained cough and noisy breathing, take him/her to a hospital immediately as aspiration may have gone unnoticed.

What do you do if your child is choking?

Choking in children less than 1 yr:  

•    Remove the object with your finger ONLY if it can be seen

•    If not seen, give 5 blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hands.

•    If still blocked give 5 chest thrusts

In older children:

•    If the child is able to cough, encourage coughing

•    Give 5 blows to the child’s back with the heel of your hand

•    Stand behind the child, make a fist with one hand and make quick inward and upward movement just below the rib cage

What can you do to prevent choking?

1.    Supervise young children at all times.

2.    Keep small objects out of reach(coins, batteries, buttons, pen caps)

3.    Foods like peanuts, seeds, almonds (badam), popcorn, whole grapes should NOT be given to children less than 5 years of age.

4.    Keep small household items out of reach of young children.

5.    Ensure that children sit down while eating. (that is never run, walk, lie down or play with food in their mouths)

6.    Do not force feed children when crying or laughing.

7.    Do not forcefully try to remove objects from their mouth.

8.    Instead, teach them to spit when asked to.

9.    Encourage children to chew food thoroughly.

10. Do not give toys with small parts to children and check toys frequently for loose or broken parts.

11. Children should not play with small balloon pieces.

12. Take the child to the hospital immediately if you suspect that he/ she has aspirated a foreign body, child may need emergency procedure to remove it.

The writer is a Pediatric Surgeon, Department of Surgery, CIHSR, Dimapur