CPR Procedures for Unconscious, Choking Infant

An infant who is choking will quickly become unconscious if you do not remove the foreign object from her airway. While the infant is conscious, a rescuer can provide a series of back blows and chest compressions to the infant in an attempt to clear her airway. However, once a choking infant becomes unconscious, rescuers should use standard cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) techniques of chest compressions and rescue breaths. Always call 911 in case you cannot expel the object from the baby’s airway.

Chest Thrusts

You should place an unconscious infant who is known, or suspected, to be choking faceup on a firm surface, so you can give chest thrusts. Chest thrusts build upward pressure inside the infant’s chest and airway, which may provide enough force to dislodge an obstruction. In 2005, the American Heart Association (AHA) set CPR guidelines at 30 chest compressions to two rescue breaths for adults, children and infants to make it easier for nonmedical rescuers to remember.

Chest thrusts are given to an infant by placing two fingers between the infant’s nipples, in the center of the chest, and pressing down quickly and firmly about 1/2 inch. The chest should recoil back into normal position in between each compression.

Rescue Breaths

Rescuers should provide rescue breaths to the unconscious infant in an attempt to provide her with much-needed oxygen while she is unable to breathe on her own. A foreign object may not completely block the infant’s airway, and, though she is unable to breathe because of it, a rescuer may be able to deliver enough oxygen to make it past the blockage. You provide rescue breaths by tilting the infant’s head slightly back, placing your mouth over the infant’s nose and mouth, and delivering a gentle puff of air. This is done twice before chest compressions resume.

Check the Airway

The AHA recommends opening the infant’s mouth to inspect for a foreign object. You should remove it if clearly seen. After each cycle of 30 chest compressions, you should inspect the infant’s mouth for the foreign object, and remove it if applicable. If you cannot see the object, give the infant two breaths. Emergency medical personnel use a laryngoscope to inspect the mouth and throat for blockages and may be able to use forceps to remove the item from the infant’s airway. If you cannot see or remove the object, continue CPR, until the infant reaches a hospital, with inspection of the airway for the object every two minutes.

About this Author

Based in Wisconsin, Elizabeth Otto is a licensed emergency medical technician-intermediate with 10 years of experience in the field. She has worked as clinical assistant in family health and emergency medicine since 1995. Otto is a copywriter and freelance writer for LIVESTRONG.com. She holds an Associate of Science degree in medical assisting from Commonwealth College.