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First aid Choking: Symptoms & First Aid Advice

Team AckoSept 15, 2023

Choking is a term used to refer to the inability to breathe due to a blockage or obstruction in the throat or windpipe. It can be caused by food or small objects being lodged in the throat, an allergic reaction, or a medical condition such as an asthma attack. It can be a life-threatening medical emergency and requires immediate treatment. People of any age can experience Choking. However, it is often seen in kids. So, it becomes crucial to understand how you can avoid or what you can do when one is choked. This article talks about such situations in detail, along with the first aid for Choking




Symptoms of Choking

Signs of Choking include difficulty breathing, difficulty speaking, coughing or gagging, and making a high-pitched sound while inhaling. Signs in infants may include a weak cry, gagging, and coughing.

What causes Choking?

The common causes of Choking are as follows.

  • Eating too quickly or too much without thoroughly chewing.

  • Consuming high-risk foods that can easily form into a ball, such as peanuts and popcorn.

  • Eating unfamiliar foods that are difficult to swallow or chew.

  • Eating while laughing or talking.

  • Ill-fitted dentures or oral appliances that don't allow food to be chewed properly.

  • Taking too large of a bite of food.

  • Foreign bodies, such as a small toy, entering the airway.

  • Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can include Choking.

  • Seizure activity that causes coughing or gagging.

  • Acid reflux, which can irritate the throat.

First aid for Choking

Choking happens when an object gets stuck in an individual's throat, blocking the flow of air. When this happens, the priority is to provide first aid to the individual, as the blockage can be life-threatening.

  • Encourage the individual to cough to try to clear the blockage.

  • If the person is unable to cough or speak, stand behind them and perform the Heimlich manoeuvre. With one hand, make a fist and place it above their navel. Clutch the fist with your other hand, and with a quick inward and upward thrust, press into their abdomen. Repeat this process 5 times.

  • If the individual is pregnant, the same Heimlich manoeuvre can be performed. But you should place your hands below the navel, using two or three upward thrusts.

  • If the Heimlich manoeuvre does not work and the individual has lost consciousness, lay them down and perform CPR.

  • It is vital to note that CPR (CPR is a combination of chest compressions and rescue breathing, also known as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation) should only be performed if the person is unresponsive, pulseless, and not breathing. If the person has a pulse, but is not breathing normally, you should provide rescue breathing (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation) until medical help arrives.

Here is the rundown of the steps to perform chest compressions.

  1. Place your hands in the centre of their chest and press down firmly and evenly.

  2. Push down two to two and a half inches and release, 30 to 100 times a minute.

  3. Keep your elbows straight and your shoulders above your hands.

Step by step guide to perform rescue breathing.

  1. Tilt the head back and pinch the nose.

  2. Take a deep breath and create a seal over the person's mouth with yours.

  3. Breathe slowly and evenly into their mouth, allowing the chest to rise, and then release the breath.

  4. Give two breaths for every 30 compressions at a ratio of 30:2.

  5. Keep a steady pace, checking for pulse and respiration at regular intervals.

Note: If you are not trained in CPR and do not feel comfortable providing it, you can provide hands only CPR which is chest compressions only until medical help arrives.

It is vital to note that the Heimlich manoeuvre and CPR should only be performed if the individual is in a life-threatening situation. If the individual can still speak or breathe, they may only need to cough to clear the blockage.

Here’s what to do if a baby or small child is Choking

If a baby or a child is Choking, lay them on their back and give five back blows. This involves firmly striking the baby or child with the heel of your hand between their shoulder blades. If this is unsuccessful, perform five chest thrusts. With the baby or child on their back, place two of your fingers in the middle of their chest, just below the nipple line, and thrust inwards and upwards five times. Seek immediate medical help if the child does not become conscious or is still Choking.

Here’s how you can survive Choking when alone

If you get choked and you do not have anyone who can help, you can perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on yourself. Here’s how you can do it.

  1. Stand in front of a hard surface, such as a table, chair, or wall.

  2. Place one fist about an inch above your navel.

  3. Wrap your other hand over your fist and grab your fist firmly.

  4. Make a quick, up and inward thrusting motion with your fist.

  5. Repeat this thrusting motion until the object blocking your airway is expelled.

How to prevent Choking in babies and kids

Infants are more vulnerable to Choking. So, it is always better to follow preventative measures.

  • Cut food into small pieces and wait for it to cool before serving it.

  • Sit upright and stay with the baby or infant at all times during meals.

  • Introduce new foods slowly, and be aware of any food allergies or sensitivities the baby or infant may have.

  • Ensure that the baby always chews the food thoroughly before swallowing.

  • Avoid giving hard foods, such as nuts, popcorn, and hard candies, to children.

  • Teach children the Heimlich manoeuvre.

  • Keep hazardous objects away from infants and small children.

  • Make sure a first-aid kit is available and that someone in your family knows how to administer CPR.

  • Have a medical alert card with allergies and medical conditions in case of an emergency.

  • Do not use peanut butter as a spread on sandwiches, as it can be hard to chew.

  • Do not give food to younger children whole, such as grapes, hot dogs, or large chunks of meat, as these can be difficult to chew.

  • Be sure to check toy labels to make sure they are age appropriate. For younger children, look for soft-textured toys. 

Frequently asked questions

Here are some common questions and answers regarding first aid for Choking.


What to do if I start Choking?

If you start Choking and are unable to cough up or remove the object causing the Choking, seek immediate medical attention or call emergency services.

What are the signs of someone Choking?

The signs of someone Choking include coughing, gasping for air, clutching their throat, or an inability to talk. It is vital to act fast if you suspect someone may be Choking.

What kind of first aid should be administered for Choking?

For a conscious person, ask them to cough forcefully to try to dislodge the object. If the person cannot speak, breathe, or cough, perform abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich manoeuvre). 

Which age group of kids is at higher risk of Choking?

Infants and toddlers are most at risk of Choking due to their small airways and their tendency to put objects in their mouth that they shouldn't. The majority of Choking incidents occur in children under the age of five. However, children of all ages should be supervised when eating and playing to reduce the risk of Choking.

What are the after-effects of Choking?

The after-effects of Choking can vary depending on the severity and duration of the Choking event. Some common after-effects may include difficulty breathing, coughing, hoarseness, or sore throat. In some cases, there can be more serious consequences such as damage to the vocal cords, larynx, or blood vessels in the neck.

In rare cases, people may also experience psychological after effects from Choking, such as fear of eating or fear of being in a similar situation in the future. It is essential to seek medical attention after Choking, as it can cause serious medical complications.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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