Dealing Effectively with Choking
We may have covered choking before but very recently I’ve heard of 2 people choking in restaurants, thankfully others knew what to do and the outcome was good but would you know what to do if this happened?
It’s better to have first aid training but if you come across a situation here’s what to do….
A Choking Adult or Child (Airway Obstruction)
Someone who is choking will either have a mild or severe airway construction. the severity of the blockage will determine the difficulty in breathing.
Recognising a Choking Casualty
- grasping at the throat area
- difficulty in breathing and speaking
- redness of the face
- eyes enlarged and watering
- displaying distress
With a severe airway obstruction the casualty may show the above signs but also the skin colour may develop a blue/grey tinge; the casualty may get progressively weaker and eventually become unconscious.
Treating A Choking Adult or Child
If the airway is only partly blocked, the person will usually be able to speak, cry, cough or breathe. They will usually be able to clear the blockage themselves.At Proparamedics Training Unit we use training vests to show you the ‘real life’ version of what actually happens and how you can help providing a realistic practice for both back slaps and abdominal thrusts.
To help with mild choking in an adult or child over one year old:
- Encourage the person to keep coughing to try and clear the blockage.
- Ask the person to try to spit out the object if it’s in their mouth.
- Don’t put your fingers in their mouth to help them as they may bite you accidentally.
- If coughing doesn’t work, start back blows (see below).
Severe choking: administer back blows and abdominal thrusts
Where choking is severe, the person will not be able to speak, cry, cough or breathe. Without help, they will eventually become unconscious.
Backblows to help an adult or child over one year old:
- Stand behind the person and slightly to one side. Support their chest with one hand. Lean the person forward so that the object blocking their airway will come out of their mouth, rather than moving further down.
- Give up to 5 sharp blows between the person’s shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. (The heel is between the palm of your hand and your wrist).
- Check if the blockage has cleared.
- If not, give up to 5 abdominal thrusts (see below).
Important: Don’t give abdominal thrusts to babies under one year old or to pregnant women.
Abdominal Thrusts to help an adult or child over one year old:
- Stand behind the person who is choking.
- Place your arms around their waist and bend them forward.
- Clench one fist and place it right above their belly button.
- Put the other hand on top of your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards.
- Repeat this movement up to five times.
If the person’s airway is still blocked after trying back blows and abdominal thrusts, get help immediately:
- Call 999 and ask for an ambulance. Tell the 999 operator that the person is choking.
- Continue with the cycles of 5 back blows and 5 abdominal thrusts until help arrives.
If the person loses consciousness and they’re not breathing, you should begin cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with chest compressions.
Get urgent medical help if:
- they have a persistent cough after choking
- they feel something is still stuck in their throat
Abdominal thrusts can cause serious injuries. Where this potentially life-saving treatment has been necessary, a health professional such as your GP or a doctor in A&E should always examine the person afterwards.
At Proparamedics Training Unit we use training vests to show you the ‘real life’ version of what actually happens and how you can help providing a realistic practice for both back blows and abdominal thrusts.
If you would like to develop your First Aid skills, our Training Unit provide a variety of courses, all designed to deliver skills in a practical environment. For further information please get in touch with our Training team.