I couldn’t think of an appropriate title for this blog, everything sounded too light or too humorous so I went with choking. It is what it is, horrendously scary, life-threatening, painful and terrifying… choking.
The reason for me writing this blog post today is partly because of personal experience and also because of the time of year that we’re in. The time of trick or treating, handing out candies and sweeties to kids from your own home, from shops, competitions – it’s practically raining treats… and that is so much fun! Until it becomes so far from fun that it will scar you mentally for life.
Yesterday we went on a local trick or treat trail which was amazingly run, so much fun. All the kids were loving it, even the grown-ups too. On coming home and separating our 5 year old’s sweets for rationing out until Christmas with the sheer amount of Haribo he got, we noticed that more than a handful of the hard candies and lollipops had ‘BEWARE CHOKING HAZARD’ printed on them. Every now and again, I get flashbacks and this was one of those times.
4 years ago to the day, my eldest son was having a spooky night time treat of a hard skull candy lollipop. He was a few months away from being 10, so not a toddler, capable of sensible eating, knowing his limits and taking care. The hard candy skull suddenly popped off of the stick and wedged stuck in his throat. It still makes me sick to think about what happened. He was struggling to breathe, trying to vomit, being sick but barely anything coming out, clamming up, sweaty yet cold. We were terrified, without a clue what to do apart from basic first aid and choking rules I had remembered when training to be a nursery worker years ago.
I called 111, desperate for some advice. They were fantastic and urged us immediately to get to A&E but if at any point he stopped breathing or looking like he was becoming unconscious, to pull over and call an ambulance. The drive and wait at the hospital was agonising. At the time of arrival, he had stopped vomiting and seemed to be able to breathe gently and better although you could still *hear* the sweet in his throat as he swallowed and it was extremely painful for him.
Lewisham hospital were amazing. He had his oxygen levels and blood tested, he had an x-ray – I had somehow remembered to bring along another lolly exactly the same in case they needed it, it was about the only thing I could think to do before we left. They kept him in for hours, checking his oxygen as although they believed it was disintegrating with the help of his saliva and acid from the vomiting and was moving down through his digestive system as it should, they wanted to make extra safe that nothing had gotten into his lungs.
We were eventually allowed to go home hours later, once they were satisfied he was safe (apart from lacerations to his throat and burning from the bile) and to go gently with food for the next few days. For those next few days, I barely slept. I kept replaying everything over and over again, I struggled to eat even though there was nothing physically wrong with me, it just filled me with dread and reminded me of what could have happened with every.single.swallow.
So, every now and again I get flashbacks to this, as I mentioned earlier. I don’t understand why these lollipops and hard candies are still so freely given to children (and adults for that matter, i’m entirely against them for anyone but that is my personal decision). Lots of the sweets given to my 5 year old yesterday as a wonderful traditional gift and gesture of festive spirit were clearly labelled as a choking hazard.
I’m not saying this is the responsibility of the shops who handed him the sweets at all, they were received gratefully by us in the lovely manner they were given to us (and disposed of safely). I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault at all, I just think so much more awareness needs to be raised and parents really need to listen and learn about the dangers of choking, especially on items like this which still seem to be given away so easily to the people they can hurt the most. I cannot convey properly in words just how terrifying those few minutes of my eldest son choking were, we thought we were going to lose him. It is simply just not worth the risk.
So if you have small people in your life in any way, please stop and think before you give them any hard-boiled lollipops, treats and candies at this time of year when they are more freely given. Educate yourselves on ALL of the foods most likely to cause a choking incident (you may be surprised just what is on that list) and why not book yourself in for a refresher or newbie first aid and choking course with a trained specialist, to give yourself the right skills and tools needed if you ever face this situation yourself? Many courses are just a few hours long and very good value for the possible life saving skills you will be learning.
Stay safe (and spooky!) this Hallowe’en ❤