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Christmas pudding choking

Christmas is full of traditions, but one tradition may just take your breath away….literally! It is a tradition in the UK to put coins and other items in a Christmas pudding to give someone luck and other fortunes throughout the new year but beware, because it could lead to choking!

What do people bake into Christmas puddings?

  • Coins – people put silver coins into Christmas puddings as it is said to bring luck to the person who finds it. Traditionally, a silver sixpence was used, but the closest coin to that nowadays is a five pence piece. I wonder how lucky you would feel to choke on a 5p coin?
  • Bachelor’s Button – if found by a single man, he will be single for the next year
  • Old Maid’s Thimble – if found by a single woman, she will be single for the next year
  • A ring – the finder will get married or become rich in the next year
  • A wishbone – the finder will have good luck
  • An anchor charm – the finder will have a safe year, with the charm protecting them from danger

What do you do if someone chokes on a coin?

Obviously, putting hazardous materials in food is not the best idea, but thousands every year put items in their Christmas pudding.  

Choking happens when someone’s airway suddenly gets blocked, either fully or partly, so they can’t breathe. The following information applies to adults and children over 1-year-old.

Mild choking: Encourage them to cough

If the airway is only partly blocked, the person will usually be able to speak, cry, cough or breathe.

They’ll usually be able to clear the blockage themselves.

To help with mild choking in an adult or child over 1-year-old:

  • encourage them to keep coughing to try to clear the blockage.
  • ask them to try to spit out the object if it’s in their mouth.
  • do not put your fingers in their mouth to help them as they may bite you accidentally or make the obstruction worse.

If coughing doesn’t work, start back blows.

Severe choking: Back blows and abdominal thrusts

Where choking is severe, the person won’t be able to speak, cry, cough or breathe. Without help, they’ll eventually become unconscious.

To carry out a back blow on an adult or child over 1-year-old:

  • Stand behind them and slightly to one side. Support their chest with 1 hand. Lean them forward so the object blocking their airway will come out of their mouth, rather than moving further down.
  • Give up to 5 hard blows between their shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. The heel is between the palm of your hand and your wrist. Stop if the obstruction is cleared.
  • After 5 back blows if the obstruction is not clear, start abdominal thrusts.

Abdominal Thrusts

Do not give abdominal thrusts to babies under 1-year-old or pregnant women.

To carry out an abdominal thrust:

  • Stand behind the person who’s choking.
  • Place your arms around their waist and bend them forward.
  • Clench a fist and place it right above their belly button with thumb pointing inwards.
  • Put the other hand on top of your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards.
  • Repeat this movement up to 5 times trying to dislodge the obstruction each time.
  • Repeat up to 5 times.

If the person’s airway is still blocked after trying back blows and abdominal thrusts, get help immediately:

Call 999 and ask for an ambulance. Tell the 999 operators the person is choking.

Continue with the cycles of 5 back blows and 5 abdominal thrusts until help arrives.

If they lose consciousness and aren’t breathing, you should begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with chest compressions.

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