Choking Hazards

Over the years, I’ve shared many of my fears with readers of this column. (And I can tell you that I’ve taken a lot of heat about that sour cream thing.) One I haven’t written about is my fear of choking.

Please understand, I’m not afraid of me choking. Rather, I am afraid that someone near me will choke, and I will be responsible for saving them — or not saving them.

I am particularly alarmed by small children who are eating solid and semi-solid foods. Mealtime with babies and toddlers who have progressed beyond mushy cereal and baby foods is torture for me. On the edge of my seat, I nervously await the telltale wheezing-gasping-coughing combo that signals potential choking activity. When it happens, I wait with dread — one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi — for the coughing to end. Will it end with a return to normal breathing, or will I have to intervene? (Keep in mind, I go through this even if the child in question is sitting three tables over at the food court.)

Two things make me feel better: (1) when there’s a trained medical professional present, preferably dressed in scrubs and wearing a white coat to identify themselves as choking cessation experts, and (2) when I know that the child’s parents have taken first-aid classes. Since I can’t reasonably expect doctors and nurses to accompany me at every meal, I’ve decided to encourage — no to implore — all new parents in the Triangle to complete first-aid training.

In all seriousness — setting aside all of my strange fears — I do encourage parents to complete child-specific first-aid and CPR training. You’ll learn things that will help you tackle the everyday bumps and scrapes that accompany child rearing. But you’ll also learn the big stuff. What do to if your child stops breathing. If his heart stops beating. If he’s in shock. If he’s choking. If he’s ingested a poisonous substance. If there are broken bones or excessive bleeding. The list goes on and on.

Our community offers a variety of first-aid training for parents. Your pediatrician may be able to recommend a class; classes may be offered at your local YMCA or YWCA. The following organizations represent just a small sampling of the programs offered in the Triangle:

? American Red Cross, Triangle Chapter, or (919) 231-1602

? American Red Cross, Durham Chapter, or (919) 489-6541 or (919) 489-6542

? Family Dynamics, (919) 851-3678

? National Safety Council, or (919) 789-4900

? Duke University Health System, or (919) 477-2644

? Rex Hospital, or (919) 784-4490

? North Carolina Women’s Hospital, or (919) 966-7890

? CPR Consultants Inc. (contracts with WakeMed), or (919) 850-9295

Every minute you spend in class will make you quicker and more clear-headed in an emergency — and the seconds you save may mean the difference between life and death. Sometimes it’s scary knowing everything that can go wrong; but it’s even scarier to be unprepared when the unexpected happens.