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Choking: assessment, symptoms, first aid, Heimlich maneuver, CPR

Choking: assessment, symptoms, first aid, Heimlich maneuver, CPR

Choking is a medical emergency that occurs when an object blocks a person’s airway, which prevents them from breathing. Choking can be caused by various objects, including food, small toys, or other foreign objects. Choking can result in death if not treated quickly and appropriately.

As a healthcare professional or someone who may need to respond to a choking emergency, it is essential to know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver and other techniques to clear the airway and restore breathing. Regular first aid CPR AED recertification and BLS certification renewal AHA guidelines compliant can help you stay up-to-date with the latest techniques and protocols for managing choking emergencies and other life-threatening situations.

Assessment: When assessing a choking victim, the first step is determining if the person is coughing, breathing, or speaking. If the person is coughing, speaking, or able to breathe, then the airway is likely not blocked. If the person cannot do any of these things, the airway is likely blocked, and the choking victim needs immediate help.

Symptoms The most common symptom of choking is difficulty breathing. Other symptoms may include Inability to speak, gagging, wheezing, or coughing, skin, lips, and fingernails turning blue, difficulty swallowing, loss of consciousness

First Aid If you suspect someone is choking, call 911 immediately. While you wait for help to arrive, use Heimlich Maneuver

Heimlich maneuver is a first aid technique to dislodge an object blocking a person’s airway. This technique is only recommended for conscious victims and should not be used on infants or pregnant women. To perform the Heimlich maneuver, stand or kneel behind the person and place one hand on the person’s upper abdomen, just below the ribcage, and the other hand on top. Quickly press inward and upward and repeat five times.

CPR: If the choking victim becomes unconscious, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). CPR consists of chest compressions and rescue breaths. Continue alternating chest compressions and rescue breaths until help arrives or the person begins to breathe on their own.

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  • American Red Cross. (2020). Choking. Retrieved from
  • Mayo Clinic. (2020). First Aid: Choking. Retrieved from
  • National Health Service. (2020). How to Help Someone Who is Choking. Retrieved from