The choking child: what happens before the ambulance arrives?

Prehosp Emerg Care. 1999 Jan-Mar;3(1):7-10. doi: 10.1080/10903129908958897.


Objective: To compare pre-EMS intervention (bystander intervention) with EMS intervention (performed by fire department/EMS personnel) in the management of airway foreign bodies in children.

Methods: First-responding paramedic run reports for 1994 in the metropolitan area (city and county fire departments) pertaining to acute foreign body airway obstruction in children (aged 0-15 years) were reviewed. Data regarding age, gender, type of foreign body, method by which the airway was cleared, and mode of transportation were extracted.

Results: There were 103 runs with an age distribution as follows: 0-11 months 39.8%; 1-5 years 50.5%; and >6 years 9.7%. Fifty-eight (56.3%) involved males and 45 (43.7%) involved females. Eighty-five percent of the airways were cleared before EMS arrival. Thirty-eight percent were self-cleared by the child. The chance of airway clearance before EMS arrival increased with increasing age: 78% of the children aged 0-11 months, 88.5% of the children 1-5 years of age, and 100% of the children aged 6 years or older had their airways cleared before EMS arrival. Forty-four percent of the children were not transported, and 27% were transported by private vehicle. Coins and food were the two most common foreign bodies.

Conclusion: The majority of airway foreign bodies were cleared before EMS arrival, especially in older children. This supports CPR training of new parents and the general population and has training implications for the EMS provider in managing the pediatric airway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Airway Obstruction / etiology
  • Airway Obstruction / therapy*
  • Ambulances*
  • Bronchi
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • First Aid*
  • Foreign Bodies / etiology
  • Foreign Bodies / therapy
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • New Mexico
  • Treatment Outcome