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What to Do If a Person Is Choking and First Aid Treatment

How to Treat a Conscious and Unconscious Choking Person

By

August 11, 2022

Table of Contents

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 Adult 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 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

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.

choking

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 First Aid Treatment for an Unconscious Adult Choking Person?

Abdominal thrusts and blow technique is only for a conscious choking person. According to the American Heart Association, if a choking victim becomes unconscious, you must perform CPR or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation to save the person’s life before Emergency Medical Services arrive. 

choking

Performing CPR on an Unresponsive Choking Victim:

1. Carefully lay the person on a firm, flat surface.

2. Use one hand to support and position the victim’s chin. Depress the victim’s tongue using your thumb while grasping the chin with the palm and fingers, and lift the jaw. Use the index finger of your other hand as a hook to clear any foreign object inside the victim’s mouth

3. Open the person’s airway by tilting the head back and raising the chin. Attempt to ventilate the person by giving rescue breaths. If the airway is still blocked, re-position the head of the victim and attempt to clear the airway again. If the chest does not rise, begin compression

4. You should kneel next to the person and stack his hands over the middle of his/her chest. Deliver a series of 15 chest compressions as used for CPR. Alternate series of 15 chest compressions with attempts to clear the person’s airway and ventilate, as described in the earlier steps.

5. Discontinue compression when the foreign body object is ejected, rescue breathing is successful, the person begins to breathe independently, or you notice an obvious sign of life. 

6. Place the revived victim in the recovery position and call 911 or Emergency Medical Services.

Also Read- CPR vs Rescue Breathing: The Basic Resuscitation Difference

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.

Key Takeaway
  • In adults, choking is caused by food that is not properly chewed.
  • In children, choking is usually caused by chewing food incompletely and attempting to eat large pieces of food.
  • Choking requires immediate action.
  • Dr. Henry Heimlich invented the Heimlich maneuver in 1974.
  • Abdominal thrusts and blow technique is only for a conscious choking person.
  • Give CPR if the person becomes unconscious, starting with chest compressions (Give 2 breaths and then repeat 30 chest compressions.

Conclusion

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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