Choking occurs when an object is lodged in the entrance of the airway preventing air from entering the lungs. Choking occurs most often in young children. Choking is also referred to as an airway obstruction. The obstruction can be partial or complete.

What causes an airway obstruction?

Even an object the size of your small finger can become lodged in the airway. In children, an object a small as a peanut can cause a total airway obstruction. The most frequent causes of airway obstructions are:

  • Small toys or foods (often with children)
  • Severe allergic reactions (swelling of the throat and tongue)
  • Crushing of the airway (trachea) like strangulation

What to look for when someone is choking?

  • Initially people who are choking may want to leave the area - follow them and insure thay are safe
  • The face may turn blue
  • People who are chocking will put their hands to their throat
  • The person is unable to speak and cry out for help
  • Person may be coughing (trying to expel the object)

What to do when someone is choking?

  • Dial 9-1-1 immediately and ask for paramedics
  • Administer the Heimlich maneuver
  • Give four back blows
  • Deliver four chest thrusts
  • If a child, place them over your arm or lay them face down on your lap when sitting, with head lower than body
  • Only if you see the object do you remove it
  • If unsuccessful, repeat the sequence until obstruction is dislodged

What the paramedics will do when they arrive?

  • Apply the Heimlich maneuver or CPR chest thrusts
  • The paramedics may use special instruments to remove the obstruction
  • Once the person's airway is opened, administer oxygen through a mask to help the person breathe, then obtain vital signs - blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate
  • An intravenous may be started in order to administer medication

How to prevent choking?

  • Always chew your food properly
  • Never eat when walking or running
  • When feeding children make sure food is small enough for child to swallow
  • Remove objects within children's reach which may cause an obstruction
  • Don't allow children to eat in a moving vehicle or while talking

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