Choking occurs when a piece of food, an object, or a liquid
becomes lodged in the throat. Children often choke as a result of placing
foreign objects into their mouths. Adults normally choke due to breathing in
fumes or eating or drinking too rapidly. Most people choke at some point in
their lives. It’s usually short-lived and doesn’t pose any real danger.
However, choking can be dangerous and cause life-threatening complications.
A person who’s choking may cough continuously until they
expel the food or liquid from the throat or airway. However, in some cases the
object, food, or liquid lodges in the throat and cuts off the air supply.
A person who’s choking may display an inability to:
- make noise
They may also have a bluish tint to the lips, skin, or nails
from a lack of oxygen.
The person may also have their hands crossed over the throat
to let you know they’re choking.
Children usually choke when they place objects in their
mouths. Children normally do this out of curiosity. However, they may also
choke when eating too quickly or when talking with food in their mouths.
Common objects that children choke on are:
- pencil erasers
- hot dogs
- chewing gum
- cherry tomatoes
- whole grapes
- large pieces of fruit
- large pieces of vegetables
Adults usually choke when swallowing food without chewing
properly or when laughing while eating or drinking.
Should I Seek Medical Attention?
The Five-and-Five Method
Use the Red Cross’s “five-and-five” method to treat a person
who’s choking. Use the heel of your hand to hit the person’s back five times
between the shoulder blades. Perform the Heimlich maneuver five times. Alternate
between the previous two options until the person is no longer choking.
The Heimlich Maneuver
Follow these steps to perform the Heimlich maneuver:
- Stand behind the person with your arms wrapped around
- Lean the person forward.
- Ball your hand into a fist and place it on the
person’s abdomen, above their navel.
- Use your free hand to grip your fist and press
into the person’s abdomen in an upward motion.
- Repeat this method five times.
- If the object is still stuck in the person’s
throat, then repeat the steps five more times
If the person is unconscious, clear their airway if possible.
You can do this using your finger. However, be careful not to push the object
further into the throat. Call 911, and then begin CPR.
You should follow these steps to perform CPR:
- To perform CPR, you should lay the person down
on a flat surface.
- Kneel on the side of the unconscious person and place
your hand in the middle of their chest, palm down.
- Place your free hand over the top of the other, lean
forward with your shoulders, and push down quickly. This is called a chest
- Repeat this process several times as needed.
Don’t perform the five-and-five method on a child. You
should only give a child the Heimlich maneuver.
Are the Complications Associated with Choking?
The complications of choking include throat irritation,
throat damage, and death from asphyxiation.
Can I Prevent Choking?
You can prevent your child from choking by keeping their
play area free of small objects, such as coins, erasers, and building blocks.
Chop your child’s food into small pieces, making it easier for them to swallow.
Discourage your child from talking while eating.
Prevent yourself from choking by chewing your food
completely, avoiding talking or laughing while eating, and keeping water near
you while eating.