Choking is a frightening and potentially life-threatening situation that can happen to anyone, anywhere. It occurs when a foreign object, such as food or a small toy, becomes lodged in a person's throat, blocking their airway. In such situations, immediate action is crucial to prevent severe injury or even death. This article will guide you through what to do if a person is choking and provide essential first aid treatment steps.
Choking due to severe upper airway obstruction is a life-threatening medical emergency that requires fast, appropriate action by anyone available.
- First Aid for Unconscious Choking Person: If a choking victim becomes unconscious, you must perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation to save the person's life
- First Aid for a Conscious Choking Person: If the person is conscious but cannot speak or cough, begin the Heimlich Maneuver, a system of abdominal thrusts that clears the throat.
What's the First Aid Treatment for a Conscious Choking Person?
Choking requires immediate action. If the person cannot speak or cough, begin the Heimlich Maneuver, a system of chest thrusts that work to clear the throat. The abdominal thrust and blow technique is a first aid procedure recommended by the American Red Cross to help alleviate someone's airway. This procedure is only done on someone who is choking and also conscious.
How To Do Heimlich Maneuver?
1. Stand behind a choking adult, bringing your arms around the victim's abdomen. For a child, kneel down behind.
2. Make a fist with one hand, placing your thumb above the navel or belly button. The opposite hand reaches around the person and grasps the fist to provide support.
3. Bend the victim over at the waist to parallel the upper body with the ground.
4. Deliver five separate forceful blows between the person's shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
5. Perform five upward chest thrusts, also known as the Heimlich maneuver.
6. Alternate between 5 blows and 5 chest thrusts until the object is expelled 7. Discontinue the blow and upward thrust when the person begins to cough, speak, or lose consciousness
Who Invented Heimlich Maneuver?
Dr. Henry Heimlich invented the Heimlich maneuver in 1974. He discovered the remaining air in a person's lungs could be used to dislodge a foreign object from their esophagus using quick abdominal thrusts. Henry Heimlich intended his maneuver to be practiced by the public rather than exclusively by a health professional.
What's the First Aid Treatment for an Unconscious Choking Person?
Treating an unconscious choking person is a critical and potentially life-saving situation. In such cases, you need to perform CPR:
- Call for Help: The first step is to call 911 or your local emergency number to get professional assistance on the way. Time is crucial in such situations, so don't delay.
- Position the Person: Carefully lay the unconscious person on their back on a firm surface. Ensure that their head and neck are in a neutral position, as this helps maintain an open airway.
- Open the Airway: Gently tilt the person's head back and lift the chin to open their airway. This maneuver helps ensure that their tongue and any potential obstructions do not block the airway.
- Check for Breathing: Look, listen, and feel for signs of breathing. Place your ear close to the person's mouth and nose, look for chest movement, and feel for air on your cheek. Do this for no more than 10 seconds. If there is no breathing or only irregular gasps, the person is not breathing effectively.
- Perform Rescue Breaths: If the person is not breathing, provide rescue breaths. Pinch the person's nose shut, and give two slow breaths into their mouth, making sure their chest rises with each breath. Each breath should take about one second. Continue this process for about two minutes (or until professional help arrives).
- Perform Chest Compressions: If the person's chest does not rise when you give rescue breaths or if you are unable to provide rescue breaths, perform chest compressions to try to dislodge the obstruction
- Check for Object: After every 30 chest compressions, check for the obstructing object and attempt to remove it if visible and easily accessible. Do not blindly sweep the person's mouth with your fingers, as it may push the object deeper.
- Continue Cycles: Continue the cycle of 30 chest compressions and then checking for the object until it is removed, the person starts breathing on their own, or professional help arrives.
What Causes Choking?
Choking is caused by improperly chewing of food or other object getting stuck in the upper airway. In adults, choking is caused by food that is not properly chewed. In addition, standard swallowing mechanisms of adults may be slowed if he or she is drinking alcohol, taking drugs, and has certain illnesses such as Parkinson's disease.
In children, choking is usually caused by chewing food incompletely and attempting to eat large pieces of food. Choking may also be caused by eating hard candy. Frequently, young children put small objects in their mouths, which may become lodged in their throats.
What are the Symptoms of Choking?
- Difficulty speaking
- Trouble breathing
- Congested face turning to a gray-blue color
- Distress signs, such as pointing to the throat or grasping the neck
- Difficulty or noisy breathing
- Skin, nails, and lips turning blue or dusky
- Squeaky sounds when trying to breathe
- Loss of consciousness
How to Save a Person from Choking?
Here are the American Heart Association (AHA) Guidelines to prevent Chocking:
- Avoid placing small foreign objects such as pins in your mouth for quick access.
- When eating, take small bites and chew food thoroughly.
- Don't give young children hard foods or small food pieces such as grapes, nuts, beans, popcorn, etc.
- Cut foods such as hotdogs, sausages, and chunks of meat into small pieces before serving them to young children. Supervise them while they're eating solid food
- Look over toys to find small pieces that the child might be tempted to place in his or her mouth.
- Be aware that alcohol may affect your ability to chew and swallow, which increases your risk of choking.
AHA Choking Guidelines
The following are the recommended guidelines of the American Heart Association for treating choking victims:
1. Recognize a severe airway block:
- Makes the choking sign
- Cannot breathe, cough, speak, or make a sound.
2. Give thrusts slightly above the belly button until the object is forced out or the person becomes unresponsive or can breathe and make a sound.
3. If the person stops responding, shout for help, call 911 and ask someone to get an AED. Put the phone on speaker mode so that you can talk to the dispatcher.
4. Give CPR if needed starting with chest compressions (Give 2 breathes and then repeat 30 chest compressions.
5. Continue CPR until the person moves, speaks, or until advanced medical care is available.
First aid for choking can save a person’s life. When a person is choking, the airway may be blocked, so there’s not enough oxygen reaching the lungs. And without oxygen, brain damage can occur in as little as 4 to 6 minutes. Using CPR and abdominal thrust procedure is simple to learn and is often taught during CPR and First Aid training.
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