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How to Prevent, Treat Choking on Toys

When it comes to dangerous toys, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission doesn't play around. In one recent year, the government confiscated 2 million toys—mostly imports seized at U.S. borders.

Still, the commission's long quest to protect children is far from finished. Toys caused 12 deaths and sent 250,100 children to emergency rooms in 2009, the latest statistics available. Three of those deaths were from choking.

CPSC requires labels on all toys that pose a choking hazard to children younger than 3.

Although people know toys can be dangerous, injuries can still occur. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some first-aid tips in case a child starts choking. Begin these procedures only if the child cannot breathe or cough, or has lost color. If the child can still talk, or has a vigorous cough, it is better to let the child cough it out himself. Have someone call 911 if your child is choking and cannot clear the obstruction himself, but immediately begin trying to help your child with the procedures listed below. 

Younger than 1 year old

Place infant face down along your forearm with her head and neck well supported in your hand and lower than her trunk. Brace that arm against your thigh and, with the heel of the opposite hand, deliver up to five quick, firm blows between her shoulder blades. If the object doesn't dislodge, turn her face up on a firm surface, or on your lap or forearm. Place the middle and ring fingers of your free hand slightly below her nipples and in the center of the breastbone. Give five quick thrusts, pushing downward. Keep alternating back blows and chest thrusts until the object dislodges or you can see the object in her mouth and can sweep it out with your fingers. Repeat all steps until the object is coughed up and the infant is able to breathe or becomes unconscious. If there is any uncertainty about clearing the obstruction, have someone call 911 while you are attempting to clear the blockage. If the infant becomes unconscious, you will need to begin a modified form of CPR for infants.

Ages 1 to 3

Place the child on the floor on his back. Straddle his thighs; put the heels of your hands, one over the other, against his abdomen, above the navel and below the rib cage. Press quickly and firmly upward into the abdomen up to five times. Check his mouth and remove any object you see. Repeat until the object is removed and the child can breathe. Stop if the child becomes unconscious, and begin CPR.

Older than 3

Stand or kneel behind the child, place your arms around his middle. Place your fist thumb-side against his abdomen just above the navel; grasp your fist with your other hand. Give up to five quick, firm thrusts, inward and upward. Repeat until the object is removed and the child can breathe. Stop if the child becomes unconscious, and begin CPR.