If you’ve ever had something “go down the wrong pipe” or laughed unexpectedly while eating, you’ve probably felt the fear of not being able to breathe.
Choking is a very real hazard that can strike almost anyone while eating or chewing, and in the case of children, if they have put something other than food in their mouth. Choking is defined by having a foreign object stuck in the throat and obstructing the flow of air to the lungs. That’s why it’s crucial to know how to help a choking victim.
What To Do If Someone Is Choking:
Before you do anything, it’s essential to establish whether or not someone has a total or partial airway obstruction. If someone is able to breathe or speak, they likely have a partial airway obstruction and you should let them cough and attempt to remove the object blocking their airway on their own.
However, if the person is displaying any of the following signs, it’s likely that they are suffering from a total airway obstruction and your should come to their aid:
- Both hands are around their throat
- The person cannot speak
- They cannot cough
- Changes in skin colour, particularly blue lips and fingernails
If there is anyone else present (beside yourself and the victim) ask them to call 911 and tell them that someone is choking. If you are alone with the victim, do not waste time calling 911 and attend to the individual immediately.
Here is what to do in order, once you’ve established that a person has a total airway blockage. Please note that these instructions are for adults and children over one year old. According to St. John’s Ambulance, the best way to remember how to save someone from choking is with the following sayings:
“Cough it Out!”
Encourage them to cough as best as they can. Help support their upper body while they lean forward and attempt to cough.
“Slap it Out”
What you’ll need to do is hit the person on the middle of the back, between the shoulder blades. Use the heel of your palm while the person is leaning forward. After each hit, check to see if the obstruction has been dislodged from the throat. If not, hit the back again up to a maximum of five times.
“Squeeze it Out”
If the obstruction has not been removed, you need to preform the Heimlich Maneuver:
- Stand behind the person and place both arms around their upper abdomen, above the navel and below the breastbone.
- Make a fist with one hand and grab the fist with the other hand
- Pull firmly with both hands moving in and upwards up to five times.
- If the object does not become dislodged, return to backslaps followed by the Heimlich Maneuver up to three times or until the paramedics arrive.
What To Do If You’re Choking Alone:
If you are alone, choking can be even more terrifying than it would be in the company of others. If you find yourself choking, first attempt to cough as much and as hard as you can. If that doesn’t dislodge the object, take your fists and attempt to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on yourself by heaving your fist inward and upward in the area above your belly button.
If this doesn’t work, move on to a stationary object, such as a chair, counter, railing or sink. Focusing on the abdomen area above your belly button and below your breastbone, lean over and thrust yourself firmly against the surface. Repeat the thrush as many times as necessary to clear your airway.
What To Do Afterward:
If you have recovered from choking, but have receive the Heimlich Maneuver, or if you had to perform it on yourself, it is recommended to visit a doctor to be sure that you are not suffering from internal bleeding or other injuries caused by the resuscitation.