FAQ Level 3 Award for First Responders on Scene: Emergency First Responder (RQF) FROS® - Online Blended Part 1

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Course Content

Paediatric Airway

Video 54 of 219
6 min 17 sec
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Understanding the Paediatric Airway: Key Differences and Considerations

Differences in the Paediatric Airway

Understanding the unique features of the paediatric airway is crucial for effective emergency response, especially for first responders, paramedics, and medical professionals.

1. Muscle Tone and Neck Structure

Key Point: Children lack developed muscle tone in their necks, resulting in a more flexible and vulnerable airway.

  • Positioning and placement are critical to prevent hyper-extension or under-extension of the neck.
  • Unlike adults, the neck should not be hyper-extended to open the airway; instead, maintain a neutral or 'sniffing the morning air' position.

2. Airway Narrowness

Key Point: A child's airway is narrower compared to an adult, making it prone to kinking if improperly positioned.

  • Hyper-extension or under-extension of the neck can lead to airway obstruction due to kinking.
  • Positioning the child in a 'sniffing the morning air' position alleviates pressure on the tongue, preventing airway compromise.

3. Breathing Patterns

Key Point: Children exhibit obligatory nasal breathing up to around five months of age, influencing breathing and swallowing coordination.

  • After five months, children transition to independent breathing and swallowing, similar to adults.
  • Children primarily breathe using the diaphragm, with flat ribs and undeveloped intercostal muscles.

4. Cyanosis and Hypoxia

Key Point: Cyanosis and hypoxia manifest quickly in children, necessitating prompt intervention to maintain oxygenation.

  • Signs of cyanosis, such as blue lips, ears, or fingertips, indicate severe oxygen deprivation and require immediate corrective action.


Managing the paediatric airway requires careful consideration of its unique anatomical and physiological characteristics. Proper positioning, airway management, and prompt response to signs of distress are vital for ensuring positive outcomes in paediatric emergencies.

Learning Outcomes:
  • IPOSi Unit two LO1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2.1, 2.2 & 2.3