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First Aid

What To Do If Someone Is Choking | First Aid

Tuba Tasneem

March 07, 2023

Read time : 06 mins

Table of contents

Signs of Choking Causes of Choking Types of Choking How To Identify Type Of Chocking? How To Help When Someone Is Choking After-effects of choking How to prevent choking?

Anybody can choke at any time. Having even a fundamental awareness of what to do in such situations can be helpful for everyone, regardless of whether you work in a position that requires you to be able to recognise and react to a choking episode.

This article will go through the various types and reasons for choking and how to recognise the symptoms. We’ll examine how to react to minor and severe choking occurrences and the differences in strategy and technique when dealing with infants, kids, and adults.

Choking first aid

Signs of Choking

A person clutching their throat is the universal indicator that they are choking. To act swiftly, it is crucial to recognise the symptoms of choking. The NHS defines choking as the abrupt, complete or partial blockage of an individual’s airway, which results in the individual losing control of their breathing.

Some of the more common signs that someone is choking are:

  • Coughing or gagging.
  • Watery eyes.
  • Signs of distress, such as throat clutching.
  • Having a red, puffy face.
  • Blue colouring to their lips or skin.
  • Wheezing or abnormal breathing sounds.
  • An inability to talk properly or at their usual volume.
  • Passing out.

Causes of Choking

Most of us are likely to have had a slight choking incident at some point in our lives. This may have happened because a crisp got trapped in your throat or because your drink didn’t go down right. The natural reaction is to cough when it happens, which typically suffices to correct the issue.

You have a duty of care to keep the people you support safe if your job requires you to care for those who are more likely to choke. Choking on food and liquids may be more likely in some persons, such as those with dysphagia (swallowing problems). Dysphagia can happen after a stroke or even as a result of ageing.

The following are some of the more frequent reasons for choking:

  • Eating or drinking quickly.
  • Swallowing huge bits of food without thoroughly chewing them first
  • Wearing dentures that don’t fit well.
  • Distractions, like laughing or moving about when consuming food and beverages.
  • Choking on one’s vomit, especially after consuming a lot of alcohol.
  • A frequent cause in younger toddlers as they frequently explore their environment by putting objects in their mouths.

The elderly are most likely to experience fatal choking accidents, according to the most recent study on choking-related deaths in England and Wales from the Office of National Statistics, with hospital emergency rooms seeing more cases than private residences. This might be because people over 65 are more likely to suffer from disorders that induce dysphagia, have dentures that don’t fit well, have less saliva, are served too quickly by caregivers, or are left unattended with meals.

Acting quickly and effectively when someone is choking is crucial since it might be a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate attention. The brain and other essential organs become oxygen-starved, and the body enters respiratory arrest when an individual cannot take in oxygen. The irreversible harm is increased with time. An untreated respiratory arrest will eventually result in cardiac arrest.

First Aid training is a great method to develop confidence in handling emergency circumstances and obtain the knowledge necessary to respond to someone who is choking.

What To Do If Someone Is Choking | First Aid

Types of Choking

Choking can happen in 2 ways:

  1. Partial airway obstruction, also known as moderate choking,
  2. Total airway obstruction, also called severe choking.

Recognising the type of airway obstruction a person has is crucial because this will determine the appropriate aid.

How to Identify the Type of Choking?

If a person’s airway is partially obstructed:

  • Breathing should be possible for them.
  • Their breathing may sound different as air moves more slowly across a smaller space.
  • They must be capable of coughing.
  • They must be capable of crying.
  • Usually, they can remove the obstruction on their own.

When the airway is completely blocked:

  • Breathing will be impossible for them.
  • Coughing won’t be possible for them.
  • They won’t be capable of crying.
  • Without assistance, they will pass out and need help.

How to help when someone is choking?

You can respond appropriately after you know what kind of airway obstruction a person has. If they have a partial blockage, you should urge them to spit out anything in their mouth and encourage them to cough to attempt and clear the obstruction. Never stick your fingers inside someone else’s mouth because they might bite you, or you might push anything farther down their throat. If none of these methods works, you should strike their back.

Five back blows, commonly known as back slaps, should be applied to someone whose airway is completely obstructed. If none of these work to remove the impediment, you should perform five abdominal thrusts. Pregnant women and children under one-year-old shouldn’t receive abdominal thrusts. Call 999 or 112 right if abdominal or back thrusts are unsuccessful in removing the impediment.

When a young child is coughing in the beginning and making a sound, encourage them to keep going. If that doesn’t work, you should look for an obstruction. Carefully try to remove it if you can see it, being careful not to push the thing more into their throat. Alternately, use age-appropriate back blows if this doesn’t work. Give babies under one-year-old chest thrusts and children over one-year-old abdominal thrusts if this still doesn’t work. Never leave a child unattended. Enrol in a Paediatric First Aid Course to learn how to tackle choking incidents in children.

Any age victim should be placed on a hard, flat surface, and emergency services should be contacted immediately. Put the call on loudspeaker to free up your hands, then heed the emergency services operator’s instructions. You’ll probably need to conduct cardiopulmonary resuscitation on them (CPR).

What are the after-effects of choking?

It is typically advised to see a doctor immediately if someone has experienced a choking episode because several issues could happen. Understanding some of the potential after-effects is helpful.

Following choking, some of the after-effects may include:

  • The obstruction-causing item injured the sensitive lining of the airways. Over time, swelling can take place.
  • Aspiration pneumonia is an infection or inflammation of the lungs brought on by inhaling food or liquids.
  • Psychological repercussions – Choking can be extremely frightful, and the victim or responder may experience anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder due to the incident.
  • Bruising or rib injuries can result from back strikes, abdominal thrusts, or even CPR’s physical impact.

How to prevent choking?

Always evaluate the most frequent reasons for choking and how you could lower the danger that goes along with them while looking for solutions to prevent it. For instance, keep toys age-appropriate and small objects out of reach for young children because they are prone to choke on little foreign objects like Lego pieces, marbles, etc.

  • Cut food into small pieces, especially for adults and children with a higher choking risk.
  • Steer clear of some meals, such as entire grapes, that increase the risk of choking.
  • Promoting thorough and slow chewing of meals.
  • Not promoting jokes or conversation while someone is eating.
  • Consider how much food you are giving someone at once while slowing down how quickly you help them eat.
  • Ensuring that all food has been ingested before taking another bite.
  • Softer food textures or the addition of thickeners to liquids.
  • Limiting alcohol consumption before and during meals.
  • Consuming food or beverages only when seated erect.

The dangers that particular foods can bring to those more inclined to choke may go unnoticed by older siblings or other people who share their dining space. Those more susceptible to choking shouldn’t be left unattended during mealtimes.