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Choking is when an object lodges in the throat or windpipe, either obstructing or blocking the flow of air. Most choking incidents in adults occur because of food. They either take too large a bite, or they don’t chew their food correctly. This causes the food to get lodged somewhere on the way down. Choking can happen at any age but occurs most often in adults over the age of 60.
The very young are also more susceptible to choking. It occurs most often in those between the ages of one and three. Like the elderly, children often choke on food. But the object might also be a toy, a coin, or any small object.
Since the obstruction or blockage cuts off the air supply to the brain, it’s important to give first aid for choking right away. Even if you don’t have a CPR certification, you should reasonably do everything you can to help. Waiting for EMTs to respond will take too long. Know what to do if someone is choking before you ever face that situation.
Most of us will experience some form of choking at some point in our lives. It may not last long and isn’t serious. However, no one should ever assume that every episode of choking will pass. Sometimes the object that causes the person to choke gets lodged, and the situation can quickly become dangerous and life-threatening.
A person in the United States has a 1 in 2,535 odds of dying from choking. That’s greater odds than dying from an accidental gun discharge or a plane crash.
Choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death in children under the age of 5. Every five days, at least one child dies from choking on food. An additional 12,000+ go to hospital emergency rooms each year for nonfatal food-related choking injuries. Almost any food can become a choking hazard in small children. Their small windpipe size is comparable to the size of a drinking straw. One way to safeguard children against choking is by having caregivers, teachers, and daycare workers certified in CPR.
You should never leave children alone when they are eating. Have designated meal times and have them sit up straight while eating at the table. Children should enjoy calm meals that allow them to take their time. The high risk of choking in children makes it essential that they have someone with them to perform first aid for choking in case the unthinkable happens.
It’s easier to assess the situation if you witness the event and the person is conscious. The choking victim might give the universal symbol for choking which is holding both hands crossed at their throat. If they don’t, some signs to look for include:
If you think a child might be choking, be sure before administering first aid. A child who is choking will gag or make a high-pitched sound. If they are able to cough forcefully or they can talk, they aren’t choking.
Ask anyone you suspect is choking if they are. If they nod yes and can’t respond vocally, these are your confirmation that they are. Let them know you’re going to help.
Encourage the person to keep coughing forcefully if they can. If they cannot talk or cough forcefully, you should use a ‘five and five’ approach to first aid based on American Red Cross guidelines. Use the steps below:
Everyone who teaches first aid for choking does not include the blows to the back. It’s okay to use abdominal thrusts only. If you aren’t familiar with this technique, follow these steps to perform abdominal thrusts:
If the object isn’t dislodged, the person will stop breathing and become unresponsive. Carefully lower them to the floor onto their back. Open their mouth to see if you find the object. If you do, use your finger to “sweep” it out. Never use the sweeping technique on an object that you can’t see.
CPR will help any choking victim who is not breathing at all. The rescue breaths provide air to the lungs, while the chest thrusts help circulate their blood. Chest compressions can help dislodge the object from the victim’s airway. Check their mouth periodically to see if the object has been dislodged.
There’s no worse feeling than not knowing what to do when someone is choking right in front of you. Choking can become life-threatening in a matter of seconds and can happen to anyone at any time. What would happen if someone were choking in your cafeteria or break room? What if you took an important client out to dinner? Would you or your employees know how to apply the appropriate first aid for choking?
At EMC, we travel to your company or organization to provide CPR Training to your employees. They will learn the techniques used to help save lives for choking victims of any age. Help make your organization a safer, more effective workplace for your staff. To learn more about our training programs, contact us today.
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