Not being able to breathe is a scary feeling! Eating too quickly, trying to swallow partially chewed or large portions of food, or multi-tasking while eating can all lead to a person choking. Most people have a fearful look when they realize they are choking, but some will actually try to run away, due to embarrassment. I once heard, from a friend, that he has saved many people just by following them into the bathroom after he recognized the signs of choking. Scary! Below are some ways you can help someone out, if you think he or she might be choking.
Signs of choking to look for:
Gasping for breath
A person can be choking, but still be able to breathe. Even a partial obstruction of the airway can be frightening! Try to keep him/her calm and tell them to breath in very slowly. Once enough air is in the lungs, the person can usually force the object out of the airway. A forceful cough will do the trick.
Raspy sound during breathing
The same technique mentioned above usually works in this situation as well. The main point is to keep the person calm! Once someone who is choking gets upset, there is often a forceful intake of air, which is not what you want!
A sudden stop in conversation while eating
Talking during eating is not uncommon, but it can have its consequences. An abrupt end to talking during eating doesn’t always mean the person is choking, however, if this does occur, act fast!
Clutching of the throat with both hands
When a person grasps his/her neck with both hands, this is the universal sign for choking. There is generally no air going in or out of the lungs at this time and it’s easy for a person to begin to panic. If you see a person doing this, call for help immediately and then follow the steps below.
Learn more about Emergency Medical Care Until You Can Get To A Hospital
How to Help Someone who is Choking – What to do:
The American Red Cross recommends performing back blows on people who are choking, but I was always taught this would cause the object to become more lodge inside the airway. I have also taken CPR classes for years with the American Heart Association and just updated my certificate recently, so I’m going to list the steps this organization recommends. Remember: the very first step is always to call for 911! It’s best to point to someone and tell them to call 911, rather than you do it before helping the person choking.
To perform abdominal thrusts on someone else:
- Approach the person from the front
- Ask him/her if she will accept your help at dislodging the object being choked on
- If he/she says ‘no’, you are supposed to not do anything except call for help from EMS (emergency medical system), but most people will gladly accept your help!
- Stand behind the person
- Wrap your arms around the waist.
- Tip the person slightly forward
- Make a fist with one hand and place right above the person’s belly button (you’ll have to place your hands a bit higher on a pregnant woman or someone who is obese)
- Grasp your fist with your other hand
- Press hard into the stomach with a quick, upward thrust (as if you’re trying to forcefully pick the person up)
- Perform 5 abdominal thrusts, quickly, and if the object has not dislodged itself, continue with abdominal thrusts
- If the person becomes unconscious, then CPR becomes necessary.
To perform abdominal thrusts on yourself:
Yes, it is possible to try to dislodge an item from your own throat! Dial 911 first, even though you cannot talk, at least they will be on the way in case you are unable to dislodge whatever it is you are choking on.
- Place one fist slightly above your belly button
- Grasp your fist with the other hand
- Bend over a hard surface and shove your fist inward and upward
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Choking is a scary topic, but if you know what to do, then you can act fast. I highly recommend taking a CPR course. After becoming certified in CPR (they also go over choking and how to handle it) I feel a lot more prepared to successfully help a person who is choking or in need of CPR. It’s amazing at how much the class can boost your confidence! If you are more of a visual person, check out this video about how to perform abdominal thrusts.
Have you ever come across someone who was choking? What did you do?