No parent wants to be in a position where they can’t help their child in a medical emergency.


Peter Finnegan found himself in this exact situation when his two-year-old son, Robbie, began choking on a piece of dried fruit.


"When the incident happened and Robbie was gasping for his breath, I just froze and went into a state of panic," says Peter.


"My wife Helen had seen something briefly on TV the previous week on toddler choking and employed the choking technique. Luckily for us it worked and Robbie coughed up the fruit. I swore I would never be in that position again."


Peter and his wife, Helen, went on to set up Parent First Aid in Dublin, after they were unable to find an appropriate course to take themselves. The course is run by highly qualified trainers, such as Jeff Kennedy, who is also Dublin Fire Fighter/Paramedic. Jeff was delighted to come on board, since he regularly sees real life infant and toddler medical emergencies.


The take-up rate on Parent First Aid courses has been phenomenal and feedback has been extremely positive, with one parent saying: “The best investment I could make in my family. I discovered that what I thought would be the right way to react in an emergency could have actually had disastrous consequences.”


The two-hour course has been specially designed for busy parents and Carers of children who don’t have time for a full day of training, and tackles the following subjects:

  • Baby/Toddler CPR
  • Baby/Toddler Choking
  • Burns/Scalds
  • Meningitis
  • Seizures

…plus other critical areas.


Parent First Aid is currently running courses across Dublin and costs €30 per person. Full details of the course and location dates can be found on the Parents First Aid site.  Peter Finnegan can also be contacted on 087 245 3387 or emailed on

What to do if my child is choking

If you end up in the same situation as Peter and your child is unable to cough up the object lodged in their throat, you should take the following steps:

For children under one: Back blows

  • Sit or kneel and support your child in a head-downwards position. Avoid compressing the area under their jaw.
  • Give up to five sharp back blows in the middle of their back (between the shoulder blades) with the heel of your hand.

For children over one: Back blows

  • Follow the same steps as above; however, if your child is too big to fit in your lap, support them in a forward-leaning position before administering the back blows.

What to do if back blows don’t work

For children under one: chest thrusts

  • Support the baby on your arm , which is placed down your thigh, on their backs.
  • Place two fingers in the centre of their breastbone.
  • Give five sharp pushes (chest trusts). You should compress the chest by about a third.

For children over one: abdominal thrusts

  • Standing or kneeling behind your child, place your arms under your child’s arms and around their upper abdomen.
  • Place one clenched fist between their navel and ribs and grasp this with your other hand.
  • Pull sharply inwards and upwards, repeating up to five times.
  • Note that applying pressure to the lower ribcage may cause damage, so ensure you have the right placement. You should consider seeking medical attention for your child after this to make sure they didn't sustain injuries.

If these methods don't work and your child falls unconscious, place your child on the ground on their back and call for help, while performing CPR.