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Airway Obstruction

Airway obstruction, which includes choking, suffocation, and strangulation, prevents oxygen from entering the lungs and brain. Lack of oxygen to the brain for more than four minutes may result in brain damage or death. Airway obstruction can occur when children choke on an object that is blocking the airway, suffocate on items that block or cover the airways, or strangle themselves with items that become wrapped around their necks.

Infants and children under age 4 are particularly at risk for choking on food or small objects because their upper airways are smaller, they are less experienced in chewing food properly, and they tend to explore things with their mouths. Airway obstruction is a very common cause of unintentional injury-related death among children under age 1. In addition, infants are at increased risk of suffocation and strangulation, because they may be unable to lift their heads or get out of tight places.

To protect your child from choking, suffocating, or strangulation, familiarize yourself with the dangers associated with each age group. Consider the following safety recommendations:

  • Infants should sleep on their backs on firm, flat, crib mattresses in cribs that meet national safety standards.

  • Do not put pillows, comforters, soft toys, and other items in an infant's crib.

  • Keep certain foods that are choking hazards away from children under age 4, including hot dogs, hard candies, popcorn, carrot sticks, cheese chunks, nuts, peanut butter, and grapes.

  • Do not give small children chewing gum. 

  • Never let children run, play, or walk with food in their mouths.

  • Cut food into small pieces for young children and teach them to chew properly.

  • Supervise your child closely when he or she is eating.

  • Keep small toys, parts, beads, and other small items that can be choking hazards away from young children.

  • Remove drawstrings from the outerwear of clothing for young children.

  • Tie up or cut all window blind and drapery cords.

  • A small parts tester can help you determine whether an object is a choking hazard. A small parts tester allows for small objects to be inserted. If the object fits, it is a choking hazard. Although it is slightly larger in diameter than a small parts tester, you can also use an empty toilet paper roll to check for small parts. Young children should not be playing with anything that can fit into the cylinders of a small parts tester or an empty toilet paper roll. 

  • Develop a routine for checking toys for damage. Toys that are broken should be repaired or thrown away.

  • Take a class and become certified in CPR and First Aid for infants and the Heimlich maneuver for choking.

  • Sign up for the Consumer Product Safety Commission recall alerts. 

Valley Health offers emergency care at Hampshire Memorial Hospital, Page Memorial Hospital, Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, War Memorial Hospital, Warren Memorial Hospital and Winchester Medical Center. All emergency departments are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with physicians and nurses trained in emergency care. Receiving the distinction of a Level II Trauma Center, WMC has dedicated trauma surgeons on call 24/7, a surgical team and suite dedicated solely to trauma, and a new helicopter service available locally to expedite transport.

An emergency department should be used when a sudden or severe condition requires immediate medical attention, when one is unable to reach a personal physician, or is instructed to go to the emergency department by a physician. When a patient arrives in the emergency department, a triage nurse will quickly evaluate the patient’s condition. The number of patients in the emergency department and the severity of their conditions will determine the order in which they are seen. Patients with the most serious problems are seen first.

Things to remember
  • In an emergency department, it is extremely important that the most acutely ill and injured are seen first.
  • The emergency department requires space to operate and for the staff to perform their duties. Therefore, the number of visitors in the treatment area must be kept to as few as possible.
  • Every effort is made to provide prompt care. Valley Health’s emergency departments are staffed 24 hours a day by a team of nurses, physicians and staff who perform laboratory work and x-rays. Good health is the primary concern.
  • If conditions change, or family members have questions or concerns while in the waiting area, the triage nurse or registration staff should be notified.
Hampshire Memorial Hospital Emergency Department
363 Sunrise Boulevard
Romney, WV 26757

Page Memorial Hospital Emergency Department
200 Memorial Drive
Luray, VA 22835

Shenandoah Memorial Hospital Emergency Department
759 South Main Street
Woodstock, VA 22664

War Memorial Hospital Emergency Department
109 War Memorial Drive
Berkeley Springs, WV 25411

Warren Memorial Hospital Emergency Department
1000 North Shenandoah Ave
Front Royal, VA 22630

Winchester Medical Center Level II Trauma Center
1840 Amherst Street
Winchester, VA 22601

Valley Health offers alternatives to the Emergency department for injuries and conditions not requiring immediate medical attention. In an effort to provide more convenient and timely care to patients with less complicated or acute emergencies, the following options are available.
(Examples of minor emergencies, which make up approximately 40 percent of emergency department visits, include sprains, scrapes, bumps and twists, flu symptoms, minor cuts and fractures, rashes, and fevers.)

Minor Emergency Care
Minor Emergency Care is available at Winchester Medical Center seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. 540-536-6040

Page Convenient Care
Convenient Care is available at Page Memorial Hospital for anyone who needs after-hours care for minor illnesses or a non-life-threatening injury. Open 6 to 12 p.m., seven days a week. (Not recommended for children 3 and under or seniors over 65 with serious medical conditions.)

Valley Health Urgent Care provides treatment for minor illnesses and injuries when your physician is unavailable. Open 365 days a year from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Same-day appointments available; walk-ins welcome. Locations: 607 East Jubal Early Drive in Winchester, VA, and 120 North Commerce Avenue in Front Royal, VA.