As the summer school holidays get underway, Zulekha Healthcare Group is reminding parents of the dangers of choking following an upsurge in recent local cases.

The healthcare group is urging parents to be vigilant when it comes to ensuring that safety measures are taken to prevent choking incidents from occurring after witnessing an increase in choking incidents at its hospitals.

“We have seen more cases than usual here recently and with more time on their hands during the holidays, sometimes in exotic and unfamiliar places, children are more at risk of incomplete chewing or inserting foreign objects into their mouths,” said Dr. Dhiraj Sidagonda Shedabale, Specialist Paediatrician from Zulekha Hospital, Dubai.

“Children are at increased risk for choking because of the size of their windpipe, approximately the size of a drinking straw in diameter – choking can be through food, household items or toys. Parents can take simple steps to significantly reduce the chance of choking and therefore reduce the chance of child injury or even death. We hope to make all parents in the UAE aware of the symptoms and the immediate response to choking should an issue arise.”

Choking is a complete or partial blockage of upper airway by food or other objects, which prevents someone from breathing effectively. According to Injury Facts 2017*, choking is the fourth leading cause of ‘unintentional injury’ death. Local statistics are not available, however, on average a child will die every five days in the USA from choking on food**.

The following are choking preventative measures when eating:

1.    Do not leave a small child unattended while eating or playing (particularly if they are under the age of five). Direct supervision is necessary.

2.    Avoid foods that pose choking risks and serve children food in small, manageable bites. Cut food into small pieces (e.g. cut whole grapes in quarters), removing seeds and pits. Cut hotdogs lengthwise and breadth wise. Serve well cooked food rather than raw food.

3.    Teach children to sit up straight at dining table for all meals as well as not to talk, laugh, play and jump when there is food in their mouth. Children should have a calm, unhurried meal.

4.    Offer plenty of liquids to children when eating, although solids and liquids should not be swallowed at the same time.

Immediate steps to be taken if choking symptoms occur:

1.    If a child is coughing loudly, there is no need to do anything. Encourage them to carry on coughing and don’t leave them.

2.    If you see the object, try to remove it. Don’t poke blindly or repeatedly with your fingers. You could make things worse by pushing the object further in.

3.    If the child’s coughing is ineffective (its silent or they cannot breathe in properly), shout for help immediately and watch for their consciousness.

4.    If the child is conscious, give them abdominal thrusts. This will create artificial cough, increasing pressure in the chest and helping to dislodge the object.

5.    Call out for help, do not leave the child unattended.

6.    If child becomes unconscious, put the child on a firm surface and call the emergency services.

7.    Open the child’s mouth, if the object is clearly visible and you can grasp it easily, remove it.

8.    Open the airway by tilting the head and lifting the chin, attempt mouth to mouth breathing. If chest is not rising, attempt to remove foreign body.

9.    If the child is younger than one year, five back blows (hit firmly between shoulder blades) and five chest thrusts should be administered. After each cycle of back blows and chest thrusts, the child’s mouth should be visually inspected for the presence of foreign body.

10.  If the child is over one year in age then the Heimlich manoeuvre (abdominal thrusts) should occur

a)    For a conscious child: give five abdominal thrusts with the child sitting or standing.

b)    For an Unconscious child: give five abdominal thrusts with the child lying down.

Choking is a common problem all over the world. If an incident does occur, parents and carers must remember to stay calm and administer the steps outlined above.

Zulekha Hospital Group will be releasing more details on its choking campaign in the coming months.


*Source: Injury Facts 2017

**Source: The New York State Department of Health


About Zulekha Hospital

The Zulekha Hospital brand is part of the Zulekha Healthcare Group, and is among the forerunners in UAE healthcare. Today the Zulekha Healthcare group includes two multidisciplinary hospitals in Dubai and Sharjah, as well as three  UAE medical centres and three pharmacies providing specialised treatments in over 25 disciplines. The Group has also opened  a multidisciplinary Hospital in India - Alexis. Zulekha Hospital has received extensive recognition for its commitment towards quality care and sustainable business practises, and recently received the prestigious Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Business Excellence Award , underling a commitment to providing high quality healthcare to patients and society.


Source: Four Communications