What should I do if someone is choking?

Choking can be defined as blockage of the upper airway of the throat by foods or objects which prevent someone from breathing. Mild choking is not life-threatening and can get better with cough. The person may only experience an uncomfortable feeling in the throat but severe choking can block the airways and prevent oxygen from entering the lung and eventually lead to death. Choking can be termed as an emergency situation that requires fast, effective and appropriate action by anyone who is expert. When someone is choking, the levels of oxygen drop from time to time. Without enough oxygen supply, the brain cells can only survive within 4 to 7 minutes. Therefore, you can’t rely on emergency medical teams to save their lives because they may not arrive within a short time to your location. You can learn life-saving first aid skills from the specialist at Find doctor. We have many medical experts who can help you gain more knowledge.

1) Coughing method
There are two openings at the back of the mouth. One is esophagus, in which food goes down to the stomach through a process called peristalsis. It is a series of relaxation and contraction of the foods. The other is the trachea, it is an opening that allows air to pass through before it enters the lungs. When a person swallows, the trachea is covered so the food can enter the esophagus. In contrast, if choking happens, the food mistakenly enters the wrong opening which is the trachea, it is the opening only for the airways. Therefore, any foods or objects that end up in the airway will get stuck inside the trachea and cannot easily be removed. If the airway is partly blocked, the person will usually be able to clear the blockage by themselves. If this method doesn’t work, you can try 5 back blows.

2) Give 5 back blow
If the person is still choking and you observe them having difficulty in breathing, can’t speak, cry or cough, then try 5 back blow methods. This method is quite straightforward and also can be applied to adults and children over 5 years old. You need to encourage them to cough first before proceeding with the steps. If they are not responsive, then you can simply follow these steps.

1) Stand behind the person and support their chest or upper body with one hand.
2) Lean the person forward
3) Use your other hand and give up to five sharp blows between their shoulder blades
4) Check if the blockage has cleared or if there is anything inside the mouth
Repeat this method five times

3) Abdominal thrust
This method invented by Henry Heimlich in 1975 is the standard resuscitation technique for victims. It is applied to someone who had severe choking and has saved many lives over the years. It is important to learn this method because we might not know it can save someone’s life in the future. If you see the symptoms are persistent and 5 back blows fail to clear the obstructions inside the airways, try abdominal thrust or else the person will eventually become unconscious and might risk their lives if they did not receive immediate action. This procedure requires a comprehensive understanding because the process itself is quite difficult to perform. The main reason this method is challenging is because it needs to reach the trunk of the victim and apply sufficient force in order to generate enough pressure upwards to the diaphragm so the food can be dislodge out of the larynx. This technique is applicable to adults and is not suitable for children under 5 years old.

How to carry an abdominal thrust:
1)Stand behind the person.
2)Join your arms and hands around their waist or tummy and form a fist
3)move the person sharply inwards and upwards.
4)Repeat this movement up to five times.

4) Call emergency service
This is the last method after all the steps don’t work. Call emergency services 911 and ask for an ambulance nearby you but do not give up to continue with the cycles of five back blows and five abnormal thrusts while waiting for the medical personnel to arrive. You need to tell the emergency services phone operator that the person is choking so they can act quickly. Keep an eye on the person closely, if you see the person start to lose consciousness and not breathing, please do not panic. Immediately begin the cardio-pulmonary resuscitation or CPR technique together with chest compressions. All these skills might save someone’s life and reduce the percentage of death.
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