This might just save your child’s life

This isn’t a funny, cute or happy blog post. It may just save your child’s life though.

In my case, my child nearly choked to death.

One afternoon, in a fuzzy sleep deprived state after three nights cosleeping with a teething toddler, I left my three year old alone with a bowl of melon, cut into big chunks.

While I was tidying up, he came over to me in silence. At first I failed to register what was happening. His mouth looked full, but his expression was empty. He looked pale and scared.

Silently, he was choking.

Calmly, I encouraged him to cough, then when that didn’t work I laid him over my lap and sharply thrust the heel of my hand on his back. Then again. And again. And again.

Finally, he vomited and began to cry in distress.

Then I cried in relief. As a first aid course had taught me, noise is a very, very good sign. It’s a sign of life. He was breathing.

He quickly sat up and started playing with his toys as if nothing had happened. Meanwhile I cried on and off all afternoon. I’m in tears as I type now.

The only reason I decided to do a first aid course was because we were planning to move to Nigeria and I was unsure about the emergency care in the area we’d be living in.

The workshop was organised by my local children’s centre in the UK and while it didn’t promise go into regional specifics, it would get to grips with the emergency basics.

The two and a half hour course covered the most common emergencies including choking, seizures, burns, bleeding and drowning. It didn’t go into the details of malaria, poisonous bites or sunstroke but it did focus on basic first aid essentials and what to do before emergency help arrives. It didn’t get tangled up in the complications of the exact correct way to do a resuscitation chest pump, it taught that doing something is much, much better than doing nothing at all.


I am one of many who find the prospect of administering first aid daunting. As my course leader underlined however, you may be alone with your child, you may be waiting for an ambulance, you may be the only one on the ground with any training at all and you will have no choice but to step up. Don’t be afraid. As Vinnie Jones puts it, ‘go fast, go hard.’

There was no time to call an ambulance. In our case, the whole ordeal probably lasted less than two minutes.

I never wanted the opportunity to put my first aid course training to use. I thought that first aid by simpletons like me wouldn’t be necessary in an ambulance heavy, high tech western world, failing to see that accidents can happen anywhere, at any time and often too quickly for a doctor to help.

Although I don’t blame myself, I’d committed all the textbook errors my course leader had warned me about. Three year olds are more likely to choke than babies: they are constantly on the go, they forget to chew and parents often fail to supervise them while eating. As I also found out, choking is silent and it happens fast.

The course won’t bestow you with a PhD in medical science or protect your child when you are a zillion miles from a hospital, but it might just help in an emergency.

The first thing I did after wiping away my tears was book my husband a place on the same course. And then look at my funny, cute and happy kids with ultimate gratitude and relief.


In the UK, the British Red Cross, the St Johns Ambulance and children’s centres offer paediatric first aid courses. Check The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies website for information outside of the UK.

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