Here’s a bit of seemingly unconventional wisdom: When you hear a child coughing or making choking sounds – do nothing.
“If they are making any noise at all, leave them alone. The only time you should intervene is when they are making no noise,” says Dr. Ernest Leva, director of the pediatric emergency program at the Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.
A 5-year-old boy who nearly choked to death on a quarter but was saved by a Garfield police officer this week has served as a gentle reminder to parents and guardians about the do’s and don’ts of dealing with choking children. Though what the best thing is to do in any given circumstance isn’t always as clear as you might think.
“Coughing or making choking sounds is a natural defense mechanism. It’s a GOOD thing. If they are coughing or making choking noises, they are not completely obstructed and you can cause them more harm than good,” says Leva, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at Rutgers-RWJ Medical School.