New figures show 79 per cent of parents don't know the correct technique for when a baby is choking. But help is at hand...
It's the silence that is the scariest part. It's almost eerie. One minute my kitchen was full of the normal after school chaos; children shouting, tea being thrown together in the usual haphazard fashion, mess everywhere.
And then suddenly I was aware of my youngest, Joseph - just two at the time - gently tugging on the back of my cardigan. I looked down to see him staring at me blankly with confusion in his eyes.
It only took me a split second to realise there must be something stuck in his throat. His face looked like it was starting to change colour; he clearly couldn't breathe. And then thank goodness my motherly instinct kicked in.
Within seconds I was slapping him hard on the back. Nothing changed the first time I did it. The same look of terror in his eyes. So I did it again, this time with even more urgency.
And in that moment a tiny blue button flew out of his mouth and across the kitchen floor. It was from my daughter's craft box, sitting innocently on the kitchen table. Shortly after came the best sound ever; his big rasping shrieks as we both collapsed in a cuddle of relief.
Of course within five minutes everything was back to normal; I continued cooking, he continued pestering his sisters. But things could have been so different, and for weeks after I couldn't get the image of his haunting, terrified eyes out of my mind.
And that's the thing I noticed: children don't choke in a loud 'look at me' fashion. It can be quiet and oh-so-instant. This explains why new research from St John Ambulance cites choking as a major fear for more than 58 per cent of parents. And it doesn't come as a surprise that around 40 per cent have witnessed it.
In those hours after Joseph's episode I also realised that despite having three children I didn't really know what to do if someone choked. Thankfully my instincts were right, but what if the button hadn't come out?
A quick straw poll of a group of mums found a similar result; they'd heard of the Heimlich manoeuvre, but weren't sure how to do it. As for whether you put your fingers in a child's mouth to get out the blockage? The jury was definitely out.
Thankfully this week St John Ambulance launched a brilliant new advert called the Chokeables.
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