Choking hazards: an ever present danger

By Emily Ace, St John WA

Imagine watching on helplessly as your toddler clutches at their throat as they struggle for breath.

Choking is one of the leading causes of injury and death in children aged four and under, and is a hazard that can strike any child at any time.

St John WA General Manager of First Aid and father of three Aaron Harding knows these signs and symptoms all too well, but avoided tragedy thanks to the life-saving skills gained through first aid training.

"My son was only three-and-a-half when he started to choke in the car, in the middle of a freeway, because he had inhaled a mint I had given him", he said.

"I had to find an emergency shoulder in a very big hurry, rip him out of his seat, and start whacking him on the back. These things happen at times when it is not always convenient, and especially for a small child under two, the temptation to put something foreign in their mouth happens all the time".

"So lego blocks, coins, whatever they can get hold of, they will invariably put in their mouth".

Aaron learned the skills to save his son because he booked himself into a first aid course immediately after his first child was born.

“It is one thing to have the competence and skills to know what to do, but instilling confidence is also a big component of the St John WA courses - trying to convince people that by and large there is no need for panic,” he said.

“In fact, when dealing with a child, there is no room for panic, because people are looking to you to be that strong individual that can handle the situation.”

Caregivers located in both regional and metro areas can now learn these essential skills through the Tiny Tots First Aid course for the small price of $50, and it only takes 3.5 hours of your time.

“Everybody can afford that time and cost if you have any involvement with kids that are near and dear to you,” he said.

Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist Ellen Gracie is a fierce advocate for first aid training, having worked with many children with swallowing difficulties and feeding issues.

“The main reason I recommend parents go to training and upskill themselves, especially to do with the areas of dysphagia and choking, is because I think parents have a tendency to think this sort of thing won’t happen to them until it does,” she said.

Ellen said choking incidents can be treated quickly with the right set of skills, and as parents are almost always the first responder to a child in crisis, it is imperative they receive suitable training.

“We never really know how we are going to cope in a crisis and it is amazing how that muscle memory kicks in when you have been given those skills,” she said.

“It gives parents the tools to be able to respond in a calm manner, which makes the whole experience less traumatic for everyone.”

“There are so many residual effects that can occur if you don’t respond efficiently and appropriately,” she said.

Of all the first aid training Ellen has participated in throughout her career and studies, she found her experience with St John WA to be the most positive.

“They really make sure each individual leaves with that skill set, rather than teaching the skills to a collective,” she said.

DON'T GET CAUGHT WITHOUT VITAL FIRST AID SKILLS

St John WA Training Team Leader Jo Read said choking was a common occurrence in babies and young children who are still developing the chew and swallow technique.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone that hasn’t been involved in a choking situation,” Jo said.

“Unfortunately people often jump to incorrect methods that they see on TV and not the correct technique that we teach in Australia.

“This can result in further injury, which is why it’s so important to keep First Aid skills up to date.”

For more information or to book your place in the Tiny Tots First Aid course, contact the team from St Johns SA on (08) 9334 1233 or visit our website to secure your place online.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

Gain more Parenting Insights at our Expos

Get your Expo tickets today! View Expo dates