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First Aid For Choking: What To Do When Choking?

first aid for choking

Choking can happen to anyone right from kids and adults to older people. You can choke when eating food if the food gets stuck within the food pipe. Even kids can accidentally put a toy or a bar of chocolate in the mouth, which can choke them. Choking happens when a foreign material such as food, toy, etc gets stuck in the throat or food pipe and cause partial or complete obstruction of the airflow. This can impair the flow of oxygen to the body and may lead to unconsciousness. In rare cases, it can even lead to death. Hence, it is important to provide first aid as soon as possible for a person when choking.

How To Know That A Person Is Choking?

Most of us might have suffered choking or have seen people who have choked. But in some cases, you may not be aware that a person is suffering from choking which can land the person in trouble. Hence, in addition to knowing about the first aid for choking, it is important to recognize a person suffering from choking. Here are a few common signs and symptoms that can help.

One of the most common or universal signs of choking is a person holding his hands around the throat. So if you spot a person in this situation, go ahead and help the person with first-aid. In some cases, a person may fail to give this signal, which makes it difficult to know the condition. In such a case, look for any other significant signs that can confirm that he/she is suffering from choking. These are:

-Inability to speak or utter a word

-Experience difficulty in breathing

-Have a squeaky sound when breathing

-Lips, skin, and nail might turn blue or dark

-Show signs of coughing (which could be weak or forceful coughing)

-In some cases, may even lose consciousness

If a person shows any of these signs, it might indicate that he/she is choking. In such a case, it is imperative to start with first aid for choking.

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First Aid For Choking in Adults

Here is a step-by-step guide for first-aid:

1. Encourage the person to cough: If you see a person choking, firstly do not panic. In fact, calm the person and make them cough with force. This is because coughing forcefully can cause the choked particle to come out of the mouth and improve your breathing. If the person fails to cough or if coughing for a minute or two seems to prove futile, then try back blows.

2. Give 5 back blows: To give a back blow, stand sideways such that you are standing perpendicular to the person who is choking. Place one arm across the person’s chest so as to provide proper support. Now, make the person lean forward such that the upper body is parallel to the floor. Give sharp back blows with the other hand between the shoulder blades on the back. Do it for at least five times and check the mouth for obstructions. If this fails to show any improvement, then proceed with abdominal thrusts.

3. Give 5 abdominal thrusts: Also known as Heimlich maneuver, for abdominal thrusts, you have to stand behind the person and tightly wrap your hands around his/her abdomen. You have to form a fist such that the thumb can be used to put pressure on the upper abdomen. As you do so, grasp the fist with the other hand and apply sharp inward and upward thrusts. This causes the air to move into the lungs which in turn can help the blocked material to get dislodged from the oral cavity. Perform 5 abdominal thrusts at least.

If this seems unsuccessful, then try repeating three cycles of back blows and abdominal thrusts alternatively. Remember, it is not advised to give abdominal thrust to babies or pregnant women. In the meanwhile, ask someone or try to call an emergency helpline or doctor for medical assistance.

If the person falls unconsciousness, then you may need to make him/her lie on the floor and apply pressure on the chest with your hands. In some cases, you may even need to perform Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), if you are trained for that. However, not everyone knows how to perform CPR and hence, it is advised that people who know CPR should perform it. Moreover, if the person still lies unconscious after CPR, then it is wise to take him/her to a nearby hospital at the earliest.

First Aid For Choking In Infants/toddlers

Toys and candies can get stuck in your baby’s mouth and choke him/her. If this happens, then here is what you need to do:

– Make your baby lie on a flat surface and try to remove the object from the mouth with the help of your hands.

– If this fails, then hold the baby such that the face is at a lower angle than the butt. Now, use your palm and pat the baby between the shoulder blades to pop out the object.

-If the baby faints, check if the baby is breathing by checking the rising and falling of the chest. If the baby fails to breathe properly, then try immediate resuscitation, again do it only if you are trained for it. For this, lay your child such that the head and neck are at the same angle. Lift the chin and pinch the nose. Take a breath and immediately blow into the baby’s mouth. Repeat this for at least 5 times to check if the baby starts breathing. Consult a doctor immediately if this fails to get the baby conscious.

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It is quite obvious that seeing an adult or a baby choking can scare you. But knowing what to do and starting with the first aid can help to avert serious complications. Remember to keep cool and act immediately as you call for medical help.

(The content is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

Recommended Reads:

First Aid For Strain Or Sprain: RICE

First Aid: Tips To Follow For Fainting

References:

Ojeda Rodriguez JA, Brandis D. Abdominal Thrust Maneuver. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2018 Jan.

Heimlich HJ, Patrick EA. The Heimlich maneuver. Best technique for saving any choking victim’s life. Postgrad Med. 1990 May 1;87(6):38-48, 53.

Pavitt MJ, Swanton LL, Hind M, Apps M, Polkey MI, Green M, Hopkinson NS. Choking on a foreign body: a physiological study of the effectiveness of abdominal thrust manoeuvres to increase thoracic pressure. Thorax. 2017 Jun;72(6):576-578.

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