Choking can be defined as partial or complete obstruction in the food pipe or throat due to a foreign body such as food, water, a toy, etc. Choking is a form of asphyxia where there is little or no flow of oxygen to the body and may result in unconsciousness or in some cases, even death.
If a person is choking, look for these very obvious signs so that you can provide first-aid immediately:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Inability to talk
- Inability to cough
- Skin, lips or nails turning blue
Symptoms of asphyxia are more serious and in addition to the above, one may also experience:
- High blood pressure
- Hastened pulse rate
If you see any of these symptoms in a person, you can help by giving:
- 5 back-blows
- 5 abdominal thrusts and
- alternating between the two till the obstruction is cleared
Choking in children especially toddlers is a result of foreign objects such as toys lying around.
In adults, choking or asphyxia can be a result of food not being chewed properly or excessive alcohol consumption. Even advancing age plays an important role.
After first-aid provided for choking, it is advisable to seek medical attention to ensure there's no further damage. The doctor may run the following tests or make you undergo the following procedures to see if the object of obstruction has been removed and there is nothing else lodged in the food or wind pipe:
In case of choking in an adult or child above 1 year of age:
- Stand behind the person, slightly to one side. Support his or her chest with one hand. Get the person leaning forward to ensure that the object comes out and doesn't get pushed further down.
- Give around five sharp blows between the person's shoulder blades with the heel of your hand.
- See if the blockage has cleared.
- If not, give up to five abdominal thrusts
Important: One should not give abdominal thrusts to babies below the age of 1 or to pregnant women.
- 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:
- Continue with the cycles of five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until help arrives.
- If the person loses consciousness and they're not breathing, begin CPR.
Treatment for choking or asphyxia includes basic CPR, intubation (the process of inserting a scope into the throat to see what's causing the obstruction), followed by its removal by an instrument called the Magill forceps.
If this procedure proves futile, a cricothyrotomy may be performed by making a hole in the neck, inserting a tube. This however is for a very serious case of choking. Most cases can usually be treated by basic first-aid.