Parents often worry that their kids spend too much time watching TV, but sometimes all that screen time comes in handy. This was definitely the case for eight-year-old Jaxon Dempsey from Hazleton, Pennsylvania, who used a tip he learned from a Nickelodeon show to save his little sister’s life. Way to go, Jaxon!
Jaxon and his 20-month-old sister Leila were riding in the car with their dad, Matt, when the second grader noticed that his little sister was choking on a chicken nugget.
“It made me feel scared because I thought she was going to die, but then this thing came into my mind,” Jaxon told WYOU. “I told my dad to pull over then I started to pat her back.” The “thing” that had come to his mind was a life-saving tip he learned from watching an episode of Nickelodeon’s The Substitute, a hidden-camera prank show where celebs dress up as substitute teachers and go undercover in classrooms. In the episode that Jaxon had seen, John Cena taught kids how to save someone from choking.
Following the tip, Jaxon leaned his sister’s body forward and used the heel of his hand to slap her between the shoulder blades until the piece of food was dislodged.
“I noticed her face was bright purple and red and she wasn’t really breathing. Jaxon sprung into action before I even opened the door,” said Matt. “I couldn’t believe it. I mean he’s always been a really good big brother, but I never knew he would know what to do with that. Most kids might panic and just start yelling.”
One thing many people forget is that choking is often silent, unlike the depictions we often see in TV shows and movies. “If I was by myself and Jaxson wasn’t with me, and I stopped and gave her a chicken nugget, I couldn’t hear her because she was choking. She wasn’t coughing; she wasn’t panicking. She just had no air going through; she wasn’t breathing,” said Matt. ” Thank God Jaxson was there because, without him, I don’t know if Leila would be here.”
In fact, because choking is often hard to detect, experts advise that parents avoid giving food to little ones during car rides. “Babies should always be supervised while eating, so they should not be snacking in the car until their seat is forward-facing and they are about two years old,” said Cara Rosenbloom, who is a registered dietitian and co-author of Food to Grow On. “Any food can be a choking hazard if your child puts too much in his mouth, so eating in the car is never the best idea.”
However, Rosenbloom notes that not giving snacks in the car isn’t realistic for many parents, so she suggested some foods that are safest for on-the-road snacking as well as foods that parents should avoid.
“Steer clear of small, hard foods, such as grapes, large blueberries, cherry tomatoes, carrots, popcorn, nuts, peanuts, chips, hotdogs, or whole fruits with pits (plums, peaches),” she said. “And don’t offer small crackers, puffs or ‘o’ shaped cereal until your child knows to eat them one at a time. Chewy candy, hard candy, gum and marshmallows should also be avoided.”
For safer options, Rosenbloom suggests offering fruit sliced into thin strips or foods that have been cut into pea-size pieces, such as cheese cubes. Car rides are also an ideal time for convenience foods such as yogurt tubes and fruit pouches, she said, but parents should make sure to remove the pouch cap and keep it out of your child’s reach.
On top of these precautions, it helps to make sure that any older siblings know how to help in case of an emergency, which is something Jaxon wholeheartedly agrees with. “So if they have a little sister and she’s choking, their parents should teach them how to pat them on the back,” Jaxon said. “And watch the very first episode of The Substitute on Nick,” he adds.
“I feel like a hero so much in my heart,” said the proud big brother. “I would say thank you [to John Cena] for being on that show and for teaching me how to save someone’s life.”
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