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Save A Life! Delivering First Aid When Someone Is Choking

Choking occurs if something foreign gets stuck in the throat or the windpipe. The person is unable to breathe, inhale or exhale as the flow of air is blocked. Typically it is food or a piece of food which is not chewed properly or at all becomes the cause of choking. But often with infants or young children the cause can be various things, typically swallowing small objects.

It is essential to provide first aid immediately to the person or child being choked as due to the blockage the oxygen is cut off to the brain.

Signs which are usually noticed when a person is choking are:

  1. Inability to talk

  2. Difficulty in breathing or noisy breathing

  3. Unusual sounds like squeaking as trying to breathe

  4. Sudden forceful or weak but intense cough

  5. Skin, lips and nails colour turn blue

  6. Loss of consciousness

Encourage the patient to cough forcefully if he or she is able to cough. But if the patient is unable to talk or cough at all then it is recommended by the American Red Cross to deliver a “five-and-five” approach first aid.

‘Five-and-Five’ First Aid Technique For Choking

Give 5 back blows:

Stand just behind but to the side of an adult person who is choking. Although if a child is choking then kneel down behind the child to reach the height properly. Following that keep one arm across the adult person’s chest to provide support. Then bend the patient over at the waist. This allows the upper body of the patient to be parallel to the ground. Now, deliver five back blows with the heel of the hand one after the other between the shoulder blades  of the patient.

Give 5 abdominal thrusts:

After the back blows give five abdominal thrusts to the patient. This is also known as the Heimlich Maneuver.

Alternate between 5 blows and 5 thrusts:

Keep repeating the back blows and abdominal thrusts until the blockage has been dislodged and the patient is no longer choking.

Heimlich Maneuver

In Pic: Abdominal Thrusts In Heimlich Maneuver

Abdominal thrusts performed on someone else:

  1. Stand behind the person with one foot slightly in front of the other to maintain balance.

  2. Wrap the arms around the waist of the patient and grip firmly.

  3. Make a fist with one hand and grasp it with the other. It should be placed just above the navel.

  4. Make the patient bend forward slightly.

  5. Press hard into the abdomen to give the thrust. It should be quick, upward thrust, and the motion should be like trying to lift the person up.

  6. Repeat the same 6-10 times until the blockage is dislodged and the patient is no longer choking.

  7. Perform CPR if the patient is not breathing even after the blockage has been dislodged.

Always remember:

Perform the first aid and continue giving the back blows and abdominal thrusts. This would save the life of the patient and keep asking for help to call an ambulance.

Also, if the patient becomes unconscious, the deliver CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation with chest compressions and rescue breaths. Keep checking the pulse and breathing of the patient

Abdominal thrusts performed on yourself:

  1. Make a fist with your one hand and place it slightly above your navel.

  2. Hold and grasp your fist with the other hand and bend over a hard surface, such as a counter-top or even a chair.

  3. Force your fist inward and upward repeatedly till the blockage is dislodged.

Always remember:

Call an ambulance or ask for help before giving first aid to your own self. Now, even though it wouldn’t be possible to back blows to own self, keep giving and repeating abdominal thrusts to dislodge the blockage.

First Aid for a pregnant woman or an obese person when choking:

  1. Wrap your arms around the patient little bit higher than the normal Heimlich maneuver hand placement. It can be at the base of the breastbone, which is placed just above the joining of the lowest ribs.

  2. Now proceed as with the Heimlich maneuver. Press hard into the chest of the patient and with a quick thrust.

  3. Keep repeating it until the blockage has been dislodged.

  4. Perform CPR if the patient is not breathing even after the blockage has been dislodged.

First Aid for an infant younger than age 1 when choking:

  1. Sit down and stretch out your arm resting on your thigh.

  2. Now on your forearm hold the infant in a facedown position, supporting the head and neck with your hand.

  3. Keep the head of the infant lower than the body position.

  4. Use the heel of your other hand to deliver firm but gentle thumps on the middle of the back of the infant.

  5. Make sure not to hit the head of the infant with your finger, so keep your fingers pointing upwards.

  6. Now turn the infant facing up on your forearm but with the head still kept lower than the body position if there is no breathing.

  7. Perform chest thrust by placing your two fingers at the center of the breastbone of the infant. Now give five quick chest compressions by pressing down about 1 1/2 inches.

  8. Remember to let the chest of the infant rise again in between each compression being delivered.

  9. Keep repeating the back blows and the chest thrusts until the blockage is dislodged and the infant is breathing normally.

  10. Start to deliver infant CPR if the airway is opened and but even then the infant is not breathing.

  11. Call for emergency medical assisstance.

Always remember:

Be careful in giving first aid to very young children typically above the age of 1 years. If the child is also conscious, then giving abdominal thrusts solely is preferred. Also, one should not use excess force as it can lead to damaging the ribs of the child.

Important – Immediately contact the nearest hospital if the condition is life threatening.

Please Note – This tutorial does not substitute a formal training in Basic Life Saving Procedures or First Aid Procedures given by a licensed practitioner.



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