choking toddler
Basic first aid interventions may increase a child’s chances of survival in the event of choking. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: They take a bite and then decide to hop on to a sofa … feeding toddlers isn’t just a struggle when it comes to having them finish a meal, a parent or caregiver can also have genuine concerns if a food item lodges itself down the wrong passageway.

Choking among toddlers is, unfortunately, quite common – according to Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services (DCAS), it is one of the leading causes of death in the age group.

As scary as it is to find yourself in such a situation, it is important to know what you should do if your child is choking. This is because, according to DCAS, following basic first aid interventions may increase a child’s chances of survival.

First aid for a toddler who is choking

DCAS provides the following first-aid steps that parents and caregivers can follow in the event that a toddler is choking:

1. Give up to 5 back blows between the upper shoulder blades.

2. Give up to 5 abdominal thrusts by following the steps below:
- Stand behind the child. Wrap your arms around the child's waist.
- Make a fist with one hand, thumb side in. Place your fist just below the chest and slightly above the navel.
- Grab your fist with the other hand.
- Press into the abdomen, with a quick upward push.
- Repeat this inward and upward thrust until the piece of food or object comes out.

3. Call 998 if this technique does not help the object come out. Continue following the steps above till healthcare arrives or patient becomes unresponsive.

It is important to note that the steps provided above are for toddlers. For steps to follow for babies who are less than a year old, watch our video guide here.

Call 998

The emergency number for ambulatory services in the UAE is 998.

When you do call the number, make sure you provide details of the incident to the officer in a clear manner. Here are the details you should go through when reporting the emergency incident:

1. Chief complaint – what is the primary reason for which you are calling the ambulance?
2. Location – Giving detailed instructions about your location is very important.
3. Incident – Describe the details of the incident.
4. Number of casualties – This information would be important if you are calling the helpline with an emergency situation that involves many injured people.
5. Extent of injury – Describe how badly the person is injured, and inform the officer about any pre-existing conditions and details about the injured person.

Get trained in first aid

“All parents must have first aid awareness in how to deal with emergency cases at home,” DCAS said in a statement to Gulf News.

“DCAS also recommends that caregivers and nannies must be certified as pediatric first aiders,” the authority added.

DCAS provides a two-day pediatric first aid training course specifically for parents and caregivers, which teaches them how to deal with child and infant emergencies. You can register for the training course, which costs Dh350+VAT per attendee, by visiting the DCAS website -

How to prevent a choking incident

The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) provides some basic steps that parents and caregivers can take to help prevent a child from choking:

Foods and preparation

- Cook and prepare food to the right shape, size, and texture for your child’s development.
- Avoid small, sticky, or hard foods that are hard to chew and swallow.

Meals and snacktime

- Have your child sit up while eating (no lying down, crawling, or walking).
- Have your child sit in a high chair or other safe place.
- Avoid letting your child eat in the car or stroller.
- Keep meal times calm. Avoid distractions, disruptions, and rushing when eating.


- Pay close attention to what your child puts in his or her mouth.
- Watch your child at all times while he or she is eating.