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First aider shows parents the ‘finger sweep’ to prevent kids from choking

IF YOUR little one has a toy in their mouth or taken too large a bite, your first instinct might be to poke your finger in their mouths to fish it out.

But blindly rummaging with your fingers could in fact make matters worse, an ex-paramedic has warned.

Blindly sticking your finger in your child’s mouth may push the food further back, Nikki Jurcutz warned[/caption]
She demonstrated the “finger sweep” method to safely extract food or objects[/caption]

Nikki Jurcutz – the first aider behind Tiny Hearts Education – may distress your tot or push the food or object down, obstructing their airway.

Instead, she demonstrated a safer method of removing a choking hazard from a child’s mouth, dubbed the “finger sweep”.

“Please try to avoid sticking your fingers in your little one’s mouth,” Nikki pleaded in a video posted to Tiny Hearts‘ Instagram page.

“When you do this to clear out a toy or some food, it can stress them out and as a reflex they might inhale and actually cause severe airway obstruction.”

A distressed child may gasp or cry, causing them to breathe in and suck the object down their airway, the ex-paramedic explained.

Alternatively, “your fingers might push the food down, causing that airway obstruction”, Nikki went on.

Instead, Nikki broke down exactly what you should do step-by-step if your tot has too much food or a toy in their mouth, from trying to get them to spit out the object to using the “finger sweep” method.

“The first thing you need to do is stay calm, we don’t to alarm,” the ex-paramedic advised.

Next, you need to get your little one’s attention.

Once they’re focused on you, start to “mimic the behaviour [you] want to see”, Nikki said.

In this instance, you want your child to stick our their tongue so you can get a look at what’s in their mouth without sticking your fingers inside.

So, Nikki showed how to stick your your tongue out and make a “euhhh” noise in order to get your baby to follow along.

If this method fails to work, you could try giving something else to your child to distract them.

“Often when they’re given something else, they might spit out what’s in their mouth,” she explained, brandishing a piece of banana as an option.

If this doesn’t work, it’s time to move on to the finger sweep.

Using your fingers to manually extract the food or object is an “absolute last resort”, Nikki stressed.

“You need to do this really carefully,” she cautioned.

The first aider showed how to make a hook with your finger on one side and slowly draw it through your little one’s mouth to pull the food or toy out.

“You need to go from the side of their cheek, you need to very carefully push the food out from the front, without going too far back or distressing your child,” she explained.

Nikki has previously urged parents to not forget a vital first aid step that could be vital for saving a child’s life if their choking.

If it comes to the point where you need to give your little one back blows, the first aider also warned that many parents don’t do it hard enough to dislodge an object blocking the airway.

It comes after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency recently warned parents not to buy fake anti-choking devices that could make life-threatening incidents worse.

Counterfeit devices can be almost indistinguishable from genuine ones but they could put put people’s safety “at significant risk”, the health watchdog said.

She also suggested you get your baby to mimic you so they spit out the food[/caption]
Another method is to distract them with a different object[/caption]

Signs your child is choking and what to do

IF your child chokes, try not to panic or freeze.

According to St John Ambulance, if your little one is choking they may:

  • have difficulty breathing, speaking or coughing
  • have a red puffy face
  • show signs of distress and they may point to their throat or grasp their neck

The NHS says if the child is coughing, encourage them to continue as they may be able to bring the object up. Don’t leave them alone while this is happening.

But if their coughing is silent, they can’t breathe properly or they don’t bring anything up, get help immediately.

Use back blows on your tot if they’re still conscious.

First aiders at St John Ambulance give the following advice based on the child’s age.


  1. Slap it out:
  • Lay the baby face down along your thigh and support their head  
  • Give five back blows between their shoulder blades  
  • Turn them over and check their mouth each time  

2. Squeeze it out:

  • Turn the baby over, face upwards, supported along your thigh 
  • Put two fingers in the centre of their chest just below the nipple line; push downwards to give up to five sharp chest thrusts 
  • Check the mouth each time  

3. If the item does not dislodge, call 999 or 112 for emergency help  

  • Take the baby with you to call  
  • Repeat the steps 1 and 2 until help arrives 
  • Start CPR if the baby becomes unresponsive (unconscious)  


1. Cough it out  

  • Encourage the casualty to keep coughing, if they can 

2. Slap it out  

  • Lean them forwards, supporting them with one hand 
  • Give five sharp back blows between the shoulder blades 
  • Check their mouth each time but do not put your fingers in their mouth  

3. Squeeze it out  

  • Stand behind them with your arms around their waist, with one clenched fist between their belly button and the bottom of their chest 
  • Grasp the fist in the other hand and pull sharply inwards and upwards, giving up to five abdominal thrusts 
  • Check their mouth each time

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