Choking is something that many of us are afraid of, it can have devastating consequences, which is why it is important to know how to recognise and manage it. Here is our quick guide to help you.
If someone starts choking, you should encourage them to cough and this will normally be enough. Don’t offer anything to drink, just reassure them and wait until the episode has resolved. If, however, the coughing continues, they are struggling to cough, breathe or speak, their choking is classified as severe and you will need to help them.
For an adult, child or infant, you should start with back blows. Stand to the side of them and lean them forward and give up to 5 sharp blows between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. You may find for a child or infant it is easier to place them over your lap in a head down position (this encourages the obstruction to fall out if it becomes dislodged). This will often clear it, however, if not, you may need to progress to abdominal thrusts, these are only suitable for adults or children over 1 year. For these, stand (or kneel behind a child) and place your arms under their arms and around their upper abdomen, again lean your patient forward. Clench your fist and place it between the belly button and bottom of the ribs. Place your other hand on top of your fist and pull inwards and upwards sharply. Repeat up to 5 times.
For an infant under 1 year, we must never give abdominal thrusts as their abdominal organs are too delicate, instead, we give chest thrusts. Place 2 fingers in the middle of the breast bone and press sharply to give chest thrusts. Repeat up to 5 times if needed.
If this still does not work, make sure an ambulance has been called and repeat the whole sequence again, continuing to do up to 5 back blows and up to 5 abdominal thrusts (or chest thrusts) until something works.
Once the blockage has been cleared, remember that anyone who has not completely recovered, or has received abdominal or chest thrusts, should be seen by a Doctor to check for any potential injury. If the patient becomes unconscious at any time, call 999 and start CPR.
Hands on practice of dealing with choking is covered in all of our courses. Call today for more information.