First Aid For Choking
As far as medical emergencies go, choking and the Heimlich maneuver are two of the most often depicted medical emergencies on the big and small screens.
For that reason, many people feel they know what to do when it comes to someone choking but you’d be surprised, the Heimlich maneuver is not always the right thing to do. And even when it is, you need to know how to do it correctly because incorrectly administering the Heimlich maneuver can lead to acute aortic thrombosis.
In this series of First Aid blogs, we have covered the DRSABCD, Asthma and Stings and Bites, and today we’re going to look at what to do when someone is choking.
What is choking and how is it caused?
Just because someone is struggling to breathe doesn’t always mean that they are choking. It could be asthma or an allergic response which is causing the reaction.
Choking is the partial or complete obstruction of the airways. This could be caused by a foreign object physically obstructing the airway or swelling of the tissue or both.
If someone is choking, they might exhibit the following symptoms;
- The inability to cough, breathe, speak or yell for help.
- They could show signs of anxiety and restlessness, possibly with noisy breathing and / or wheezing.
- They might be clutching or gripping their throat.
- They could get a red or congested face, with bulging neck veins.
As the situation becomes more serious, they could show signs of Cyanosis. This is where the tongue, mouth lining and skin can turn blue.
And finally, they may collapse or become unconscious.
What to do if someone is choking
The way choking is treated depends on whether or not the patient can breathe, speak or cough.
If they can breathe a little
Comfort the patient and encourage them to cough until the obstruction is cleared. Do not do anything else, don’t attempt the Heimlich maneuver. If the patient has some breathing ability, they may be able to clear the obstruction by coughing.
If they continue to breathe noisily or start wheezing, call 000 or 112.
If they can’t breathe, speak or cough but they are awake
If the patient is unable to breathe, speak or cough to try and clear the obstruction then you should follow these steps;
- Immediately call 000 or 112 for an ambulance, provide as much detail as possible when you call, let them know exactly where you are located with this person and any instructions, they will need to get to them from the street.
- If they can, get the patient to stand or lean on the back of a chair.
- Try giving five sharp, upward back slaps to the spot between the shoulder blades using the heel of your hand.
- Between each blow check to see if the object has been expelled.
- If this doesn’t work, give up to five chest thrusts (similar to CPR compressions but slower and sharper than that).
- Following these chest thrusts check to see if the object has been expelled by the patient.
If none of these steps work to get the patient to expel the foreign material and the patient becomes unconscious, follow these steps;
- Lay the patient on their side and try to clear the airway, check the mouth for visible foreign objects.
- Tilt the head using jaw support to open the air and look, listen and feel for signs of breathing.
- If the patient is not breathing start DRSABCD Basic Life Support Process, try to blow the air past the obstruction.
If the patient is a child
- Position the child face down over your lap to take advantage of gravity.
- Position the head lower than the chest, tr for a 45 degree angle.
- Administer five blows to the back between the shoulder blades.
- While giving the back blows support the child’s head by placing hand around the jaw.
- If this is unsuccessful, try administering up to five of the chest thrusts.
- If the child becomes unconscious and stops breathing begin CPR and call 000 or 112.
Seeing someone struggling to breathe is an incredibly distressing experience for both you and them.
Consider completing a first aid course. This short course only takes one day to complete in class with online study prior to attending, and it could help you save someone’s life.
If you’re interested in knowing more about our first aid courses you can organise to speak with one of our friendly course advisors here.