How to Treat a Conscious and Unconscious Adult Choking Victim

A person chokes when a foreign object becomes trapped at the back of the throat, either blocking the airway of causing a muscle spasm. Choking in adults is often caused by improperly chewed foods. In addition to choking on food, an infant or child may put a small object in their mouth that becomes trapped in the throat.

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

Treatment for a Conscious Adult Choking Victim:

  •  Choking requires immediate action
  • Ask, “Are you choking?” If the victim can respond by speaking or coughing, there is no need to begin medical treatment. Continue to monitor the victim.
  • If the victim is unable to speak or cough, begin the Heimlich Maneuver, a system of abdominal thrusts that work to clear the throat:
    • The rescuer stands behind the victim, bringing his arms around the victim’s abdomen
    • The rescuer will make a fist with one hand, placing his thumb against the victim’s abdomen. The opposite hand reaches around the victim and grasps the fist to provide support
    • The rescuer links his hands below the victim’s rib-cage and pulls inward and upward with a strong force until the object is expelled
    • Discontinue the Heimlich Maneuver when the victim begins to cough, speak, or lose consciousness

Treatment for an Unconscious Adult Choking Victim:

  • Call 911
  • Lay the victim face up on the floor
  • Use one hand to support and position the victim’s chin. Use the thumb of that hand to depress the victim’s tongue while grasping the chin with the palm and fingers. At the same time, lift the jaw.  Use the index finger of the opposite hand as a hook to clear any foreign materials inside the victim’s mouth
  • Open the victim’s airway by tilting the head back and raising the chin. Attempt to ventilate the victim (as explained in the CPR guidelines). If the airway is still blocked, re-position the head and attempt to clear it again. If this is still not effective (the chest does not rise), begin compression
  • The rescuer should kneel next to the victim and stack his hands over the middle of the victim’s chest.  Deliver a series of 15 compression, as used for CPR. Alternate series of 15 compression with attempts to clear the victim’s airway and ventilate, as described in the earlier steps.
  • Discontinue compression when the object is ejected, rescue breathing is successful, or the victim begins to breathe independently. Place the revived victim in the recovery position.

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