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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 at least 11 deaths and sent 265,000 children to emergency rooms in 2012, the latest statistics available. Every year, children choke to death on toys, including balloons, and other small objects. 

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 5 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. Do not put your fingers in the baby's mouth if you cannot see the object to remove it. This might push the object deeper into the airways. 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.

Children 1 year old and older 

If the child is conscious and sitting or standing, 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 5 quick, firm thrusts, inward and upward. Repeat until the object is removed and the child can breathe. Stop if the child becomes unconscious.

If the child is unconscious, lower him to the floor. Place your thumb over the tongue and your fingers over the lower jaw. Perform a tongue-jaw lift to open the airway. If you can see the object, remove it. Never put your fingers into the child's mouth if you cannot see the object. This may push the object deeper into the airways. If the child is not breathing, gently tilt the head back and place your mouth over the child's nose and mouth, pinching the nose shut. Give 2 slow breaths, each for 1½ to 2 seconds. If this does not succeed in relieving the blockage, kneel at the child's feet and put the heels of your hands, one over the other, against the abdomen between the navel and the rib cage. Press quickly and firmly upward into the abdomen 6 to 10 times. Repeat these steps, opening the airways with a tongue-jaw lift, for 2 slow breaths and abdominal thrusts until the child becomes conscious or help arrives. If the child loses his pulse, begin CPR.