UAE: Baby saved after choking on biscuit; doctors urge parents to learn life-saving skills

Choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death in children under five globally


Nasreen Abdulla

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Photo for illustrative purpose
Photo for illustrative purpose

Published: Tue 28 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 28 May 2024, 10:38 PM

The timely intervention of two nurses at a clinic in Dubai saved the life of an infant after the eight-month-old choked on biscuit dipped in milk.

Emirati mother KAS had no idea what to do when her baby started to turn blue. In a panic-stricken state, she rushed the child to the closest Aster clinic at Aswaq Mall, which had already closed for the day.

Nurses Anjali Somarajan and Vidhya Prasad were waiting for a taxi outside the clinic, when the mother rushed the child. “We checked the baby’s response,” said Anjali. “The baby was conscious, but she was unable to cry or breathe.”

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Sensing the urgency of the situation, they immediately unlocked the doors of the clinic and began emergency procedures. “We gave five taps on the shoulder and a bit of the biscuit came out,” said Vidya. After multiple attempts, the baby threw up all the blockage and began crying as all the adults heaved a sigh of relief. After stabilising the infant, they directed the mother to the nearest hospital for further evaluation and care.

Dangers of choking

Doctors are advising parents to be very vigilant with young children to prevent instances of choking, which could be fatal.

“Choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death in children under five globally,” said Dr Sudha Rao, specialist paediatrics, Aster Royal Clinic Downtown. “In the USA, one child dies every five days due to choking, with about 75 per cent of these cases involving children under three.”

She said it was important for parents to learn life-saving skills. “For infants under one year, administer back blows and chest thrusts and for children over one year, perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre,” she said. “Learn these techniques in advance so you're prepared if an emergency arises. It is imperative to be aware of some preventive strategies and life-saving skills such as Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).”

She added that the most important thing during a choking event, specifically in children, is to act quickly and confidently. “Every second counts in a choking emergency,” she said.

Parents have to be careful

According to Dr Vanitha Ramalingam, consultant peadiatrics at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, parents must be careful with many things, especially during the first year when infants try to explore new foods and objects.

“Parents must supervise meals, cut food into small pieces, and supervise playtime,” she said. “Buy age-appropriate toys and keep small objects like coins, buttons, and beads out of their reach.”

A 2022 study in the UAE by Emirates Health Services reported that about 50 children present to a tertiary facility annually due to choking, mostly on food and small objects like small toys, button batteries, fridge magnets, and coins. Approximately 50 per cent of choking incidents in infants and young children are due to inadequately cooked food.

According to Dr Sudha, parents must watch out for warning signs that indicate the choking is serious. “While choking is often brief and not dangerous, it can lead to serious, life-threatening complications if the airway is blocked, even fatal in children,” she said. “Signs of a severe choking episode include the child being unable to breathe, gasping or wheezing, not being able to talk or cry, turning blue, grabbing at their throat, showing panic, or becoming limp or unconscious.”


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