LifeVac Anti-Choking Device for Your Baby FAQ | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

Created by the air freight entrepreneur Arthur Lih, the LifeVac is a one-time-use device for clearing objects out of the airway. It looks a lot like a small toilet plunger, with bellows that attach to a clear face mask that’s placed over the choking person’s nose and mouth. The person using the LifeVac pushes the bellows’ handles down, then quickly up. Air is forced out of the sides of the device, which creates a vacuum that (in theory) sucks the object out of the airway when the lever is immediately pulled back again. LifeVac says this replicates a forced cough to suction the object out of the choking person’s throat. 

LifeVac is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registered establishment, which is required of companies that produce or distribute medical devices in the U.S. “Importantly, registration with the FDA does not denote approval, clearance, or authorization of a firm or its devices,” an FDA spokesperson told me. “Devices are not ‘registered.’ The establishment is registered, and that provides location information if the FDA wishes to conduct an inspection of the facility.” The device isn’t approved, so its safety and effectiveness have not been established, the FDA said.

There are two mask sizes, one for children and the other for adults. The exact sizing limits are unclear. The company’s Frequently Asked Questions page says its manufacturer recommends the pediatric mask for children 22 pounds and up, but LifeVac goes on to claim that “the rescue device was used successfully under that weight recommendation saving infants’ lives.”

There’s no maximum weight limit given on the product page for the pediatric mask, nor is there a minimum weight limit provided for the adult mask. “Parents take it into their own hands if there’s an emergency” and they use the LifeVac on a child smaller than the limit set by the manufacturer, said Laura Bonelli, a spokesperson for LifeVac. “What we’ve published is testimonials that have told us that they made that decision on their own to use it on a child that is less than 22 pounds.” That said, the company has “done a lot of testing, and there is no harm” in using the LifeVac on a small infant, she said. 

After using a mask to dislodge an object from a victim’s throat, customers are advised to buy a new mask for their LifeVac “for sanitary reasons.” They can fill out a form attesting that they saved a life using the LifeVac, information the company will use to verify the incident and send another mask free of charge, according to Bonelli. Technically speaking, you can use the product again, she says—it will work—but for sanitary reasons, it’s best not to.

LifeVac says its masks should be used after other airway obstruction methods have failed. “The standard for choking for an infant would be essentially a rotation of back slaps and chest compressions,” said Leonard Weiss, MD, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. A back slap or blow involves holding the baby along your thigh with their head lower than their bottom, then hitting them between their shoulder blades. (Be sure to support the baby’s head while doing this.) If that doesn’t work, move on to chest compressions: With the baby facing up toward you, use two fingers on their chest and push down. According to Weiss, if the child is big enough to stand up on their own, you can if necessary proceed to the Heimlich maneuver. This involves thrusting the fists upward from just below the rib cage. 

If none of this has worked, you can use the LifeVac, according to the company. For some people, for whom these standard airway obstruction methods can’t be used (LifeVac cites those in wheelchairs or with medical conditions as belonging to this group), the company says it’s safe to use its device right away. 


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