The mum, identified only as Jude, told the BBC she sought medical advice when ten-month-old Laith Atiga suddenly started coughing while at his grandmother’s house, in Berkshire, on Sunday 31 July.
All X-rays came back clear and despite repeated medical checks Laith continued to struggle to swallow and was regurgitating food.
It was only when the family returned to their home in New York that doctors operated to find the cause of the problems and discovered a plastic angel, measuring almost 2cm, in his oesophagus.
If your child is choking on a solid object follow St John’s Ambulances’ advice from their The Chokeables campaign:
Clive James, first aid training officer at St John Ambulance, said:
“Your baby may be choking if they becoming distressed, have noisy breathing, or are unable to cry or cough.”
To save a choking baby:
1. Lay the baby face down along your thigh, supporting their head, and give five sharp blows between their shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
2. Check the mouth and carefully pick out the object with your fingertips if you can, taking care not to push it in further.
3. If this fails, place your baby along the length of your thigh and use two fingers below nipple level to push downwards one third the depth of the chest up to five times.
4. Call 999 if they are still choking.
5. Continue alternating back blows and chest thrusts until the blockage is removed.
“It’s common for young children to put small items in their mouths while playing,” adds James.
“Your child may be suffering from a ‘mild obstruction’ if an object becomes lodged at the back of their throat and is causing irritation but he or she is still able to speak, cough and breath. In this case you should seek medical advice.
“If the object is swallowed, do not encourage the child to make him or herself vomit. Instead, seek medical advice immediately, as small objects passing through the digestive system can cause damage.”
There may be times when you’re not sure whether or not your child has swallowed an object - for those occasions Babycentre.co.uk offers the following advice:
“If it’s stuck in his stomach or his food pipe (oesophagus), you may notice that he:
- drools more than usual,
- has difficulty swallowing,
- gags, retches or vomits,
- seems to be experiencing pain or discomfort in his neck, chest or tummy,
- refuses to eat,
- develops a fever.
“If your child swallows something that could poison him, find out what, when and how much of the substance your child has swallowed. Call 999 for an ambulance and if possible, keep a sample or the container of the poison to show the ambulance crew.
“If he’s swallowed a button battery, or a sharp object such as glass, take him straight to A&E.
“If he’s swallowed any other kind of object, even if he doesn’t have any symptoms, take him to the doctor to get checked out.”
To prevent children swallowing foreign objects Ashley Martin, public health project manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), advises: “Babies and small children are most at risk from choking or swallowing because they examine things around them by putting them in their mouths.
“Children can swallow, inhale or choke on items such as small toys, peanuts and marbles, therefore, it is important to ensure these types of objects are kept out of reach of children under three years old.
“Parents should also supervise their children at meal times and ensure that their children’s food is cut up to an appropriate size.”