Difference Between Choking and Gagging

Difference – Choking vs Gagging

The terms, ‘Gagging’ and ‘Choking’ are not strange to us at all, especially to parents of babies. Although both seem similar, there is a distinct difference between these two conditions. The main difference between choking and gagging is their nature and severity: choking can be life threatening whereas gagging is often a reflex action to avoid choking. 

This article explains,

1. What is Choking?
     – Causes, How to Stop a Baby from Choking

2. What is Gagging? 
     – Causes, Signs, How to Manage gagging

3. Difference between Choking and Gagging

Difference Between Choking and Gagging - Comparison Summary

What is Choking

Choking can be an absolute nightmare for parents, especially when their baby seems to be disturbed, distressed and shows difficulty in breathing during these attacks. This phenomenon usually takes place when a foreign body is lodged in the throat or windpipe, obstructing the air entry and its flow.

In babies, this often happens due to the ingestion of a tiny toy, food particle such as peanut, etc.

How to Stop a Baby from Choking

When you notice that your child is choking,

  1. Look into his mouth and remove any visible blockage (foreign matter).
  2. In case it fails, lie him along your forearm or thigh, with the face down and head low.
  3. Give him 5 firm slaps using your free hand, tightening him between your shoulder blades.
  4. If it doesn’t work, give 5 chest thrusts with a rate of 20 per minute
  5. Repeat the steps 2 and 4, three times, until the baby starts breathing.
  6. If nothing of these works, call for HELP.

Difference Between Choking and Gagging

What is Gagging?

As a mother of a newborn, you must have often seen your child gagging, especially after weaning has been initiated. This is the natural way of babies to safeguard themselves from choking and must be encouraged since it inherently prevents the baby from choking.

The gag reflex of a baby takes place more forward in his mouth when compared to that of a grown-up. When food reaches the section of baby’s mouth where gag reflex usually happens, the baby will involuntarily open its mouth so that the tongue will automatically push the food forward. As a result of that, food will not reach the throat at all and fall back on the plate. This is a protective mechanism, which takes place to avoid a possible choking hazard.

How to Manage Gagging

Babies may get watery eyes, tears or signs of distress during the times of gagging, but parents should never panic during this because it can make the baby further scared which might lead to choking. Smile, talk in a calm manner and act peacefully so that babies will get used to this process. Never leave the baby unattended after weaning is initiated at the age of 6 months so that chances of unsafe food ingestion will be highly unlikely.

To minimise the chance of gagging further, try to avoid feeding your baby with solid food such as avocado, grapes, oranges, nuts, etc.

Gagging also helps the baby to learn how much food can be taken into their mouth and how far those can travel in.

In some babies, gagging can produce a disturbing noise which might make the parents scared, but you should remember that it doesn’t do any harm to the baby at all. It is also important to keep in your mind that you can continue feeding your baby in the normal manner, once gagging stops completely.

Difference Between Choking and Gagging

Difference Between Choking and Gagging

Choking is defined as a response to an obstruction of the upper airway tract by food or other foreign bodies, which will eventually prevent a person from breathing efficiently.

Gagging is a natural safety mechanism, which helps babies to prevent themselves from reaching a choking hazard by stopping larger food particles or foreign material from reaching the throat.

Choking can be life threatening if not managed shortly.

Gagging is not fatal at all.

Image Courtesy:

“Prevent Choking” US CPSC (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

“Pertussis” By CDC   ID#: 6378 US (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia 

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music