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Watch: 'Just trying to gasp for air' - toddler nearly dies after hair clip gets stuck in her airway

Five blows between the shoulder blades could save a child who's choking on an object, paramedics say after TVNZ1's Seven Sharp reported a case that highlighted the risks.

What's the right way to clear the airway of a child who can't breathe? Source: Seven Sharp

Young mother Rebecca Fitzgerald went through this horrible ordeal earlier this year when her one-year-old Charli was choking on a hair clip her mum had used to put pigtails in the little girl's hair that day.

"We were out for the morning and drove home. She fell asleep so I transferred her straight into her cot. And she woke up and I could hear her on the monitor. And then she just went quiet," Ms Fitzgerald recalled.

"She just stared at me just vacant and just trying to gasp for air. And she was just really floppy, no noise, just every now and then you would hear this gurgle which meant then there was a tiny bit of air getting in, but obviously just not enough," she said, becoming emotional.

She called 111 and ran out of her house screaming for help, but no one heard her.

Paramedic Lucy Kershaw said the best thing you can do when you recognise your child is choking is to pick the baby up, tip them head down slightly resting them on you leg, and give five blows between the shoulder blades in the middle of the back. 

"The amount of force required is varied, but they're quite sharp and you want to be checking each time to see if the obstruction is released," Ms Kershaw explained, demonstrating the technique.

If after five blows the child is still choking, turn the youngster over and do five chest compressions, to help keep oxygen flowing throughout the body.

"What you shouldn't do, especially if you can't see what is in the child's mouth, is to put your finger down there and try and pull it out," she cautioned.

Despite Ms Fitzgerald's attempts to hit her child on the back, it still took paramedics and a suction device to remove the clip from Charli's throat in the back of the ambulance, just minutes away from hospital.