Choking on Water: What To Do If Someone Is Choking on Water

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What Happens When You Choke on Water?

If you are drinking a glass of water or from a water bottle, and it gets into your lungs, it can cause aspiration pneumonia and lead to hospitalization. Aspiration pneumonia can cause serious complications, especially if you wait too long to visit the doctor. In this case, the infection may progress fast and spread to other areas of the body. It may also spread to the bloodstream, which is very dangerous. In addition, pockets or abscesses may form in the lungs.

If you believe you are experiencing an abnormal swallow, you must see a Speech-Language Pathologist.

choking on water

What Are the Most Common Risks of Choking?

Age: Gag reflex may decrease as you grow older, increasing your chance of choking.

Alcohol: Swallowing mechanism and gag reflex can be impaired due to excessive alcohol.

Diseases: Patients with diseases resulting in swallowing problems are prone to choking and recurrent chest infections. An example is Parkinson’s disease, a condition that disrupts the swallowing mechanism.

Big bites: Taking a bite larger than your mouth can chew can result in improper swallowing and breathing, thus choking.

Small types of food: Eating too small items like nuts can also result in choking since these are small and can end up in the airway.

What to Do if You Are Choking?

You should immediately perform the universal choking sign by grasping your neck with both hands. If you are alone, you should immediately call 911 or the emergency services. You can attempt to self-perform the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the food item.

choking on water

What to Do if Someone Is Choking on Water?

For mild choking on water, encourage the victim to cough. If the airway is only partly blocked, he will usually be able to speak, cry, cough, or breathe. In addition, they’ll usually clear the blockage themselves. If they cannot give a cough or seem unable to breathe, call 911 or the emergency medical services team immediately. A healthcare professional may need to suction the airway to help them breathe again.

Avoid putting your fingers in the choking victim’s mouth to help them as they may bite you accidentally. Start five quick, forceful blows (back blows) if coughing doesn’t work.

The Aha Recommends Guidelines for Water Choking:

1. You should first call 911.

2. Perform a Heimlich maneuver on the person. The Heimlich maneuver is a procedure that involves placing your hands around the person’s waist and thrusting upwards into the diaphragm. This will help to dislodge the object that is blocking the airway.

3. Perform CPR If the victim loses consciousness, where the Heimlich maneuver does not work.

When a piece of food goes down the wrong pipe and gets stuck, it will lead to choking. Choking is a medical emergency situation when a foreign object is trapped in the airway, blocking airflow into the lungs. A lot of people have also experienced the feeling of water going down the wrong pipe (water choking). Sometimes, this happens with saliva. Choking on water can be scary and dangerous for people with specific health issues.

How to Do Back Blows?

To perform a back blow on an adult or child over one year old who is choking, follow these steps:

1. Stand behind the choking victim and slightly to one side.

2. Support their chest with one hand. Then lean them forward so the blockage in the airway will come out of their mouth rather than moving further down.

2. Give up to 5 sharp blows between their shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.

3. Check if the blockage has cleared. If not yet cleared, give up to 5 abdominal thrusts.

choking on water

Severe Choking on Water:

For severe choking, the person won’t be able to speak, cry, cough, or breathe. Without proper medical assistance, they’ll eventually become unconscious. So before they become unconscious, it’s essential to give back blows and chest thrusts to the choking victim.

Abdominal or chest thrusts are the best technique for someone who is not a pregnant woman or an infant since there may be a higher risk of injury in these groups. Here’s a simple step on how to carry out an abdominal thrust:

1. Stand behind the victim who’s choking.

2. Put your arms around the victim’s waist and bend them forward.

3. Clench your one fist and place it right above the belly button.

4. Put your other hand on top and pull sharply inwards and upward thrusts.

5. Repeat the quick thrusts up to 5 times.

If the choking victim’s airway is still blocked after trying back blows and abdominal thrusts, call 911 and tell the operators the situation of the choking person. Then continue with the cycles of 5 back blows and five abdominal thrusts until help arrives.

If the choking victim loses consciousness and isn’t breathing, you should begin CPR with chest compressions and rescue breathing. Use your body weight to deliver 30 chest compressions, two inches deep, at a rate of 100 compressions per minute.

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choking on water

How long can a person survive after choking on water?

The amount of time a person can survive after choking on water depends on various factors, including the amount of water ingested, the person's age and overall health, and how quickly the person receives medical treatment. In some cases, a person may be able to cough up the water and recover quickly, while in other cases, water inhalation can lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which can be fatal.


What should you do if someone is choking on water and becomes unconscious?

If someone is choking on water and becomes unconscious, immediately call for emergency medical services (EMS) and start CPR. The American Heart Association recommends starting CPR with chest compressions and rescue breaths until EMS arrives. If water is visible in the person's airway, it should be cleared with a finger sweep. However, if no water is visible, rescue breaths should be given without delay.

How to Prevent Choking on Water?

Although anyone can choke on water and saliva because of the proximity of the windpipe to the esophagus, some medical conditions make choking more likely. Some ways to prevent choking in vulnerable people include regular airway suctioning, breathing exercises, and swallowing or speech therapy.

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


Most people experience choking at some point in their lives. There are situations where choking is usually short-lived and doesn’t pose any real danger. However, it’s important to remember that choking can be dangerous and cause life-threatening complications. Therefore, it’s essential that we know what to do if we experience choking on water or witness it on someone else to help save a life. This is just one of the basic life-saving skills you can learn when enrolling in a CPR/AED and First Aid certification classes.

With the advancement of technology and online learning, CPR classes are now easily accessible and available online for anyone to take. In fact, there are even CPR class for free available, which allows anyone to learn this vital skill without having to worry about the cost.

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