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Suffocation and Strangulation

Suffocation and strangulation, along with choking and drowning, account for the majority of accidents resulting in fatalities in the under 5s.


The key culprits for suffocation are nappy sacks and plastic bags as babies are unable to remove them if they land on their faces. However, pets, cushions, duvets and pillows can also pose a risk.

  • Never leave your baby alone with a pet or toddler, even for a minute.
  • Ensure nappy sacks are always kept well out of reach of any children.
  • Babies do not need pillows.


The most common causes of strangulation are blind cords, drawstring bags, necklaces, cot bumpers and clothing becoming caught in something.

  • Always clip blind cords right out of reach or use cordless blinds. Never hang anything on the side of a cot, or within reach of the child.
  • Small children should not wear necklaces that could become caught or tangled.
  • Cot bumpers should be avoided.

If you find your child has suffocated or been strangled, immediately remove the offending object. For strangulation, it may be easiest to use scissors. Check if they are conscious and check for breathing. If they are not breathing, begin CPR immediately.


Emma’s latest book Burns, Falls and Emergency Calls works alongside this guidance offering accident prevention and child developmental advice for children from 0-adult, giving clear first aid advice and including checklists for homes and childcare settings to make it easier for everyone to stay one step ahead in preventing such accidents. Burns, Falls and Emergency Calls is available from Amazon.

First Aid for Life and provide this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made or actions taken based on this information. The best way to be prepared for action in an emergency is to attend a practical first aid course or do one online.

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